– September 18, 2014

Boehner sees will to act on immigration in House 

House Speaker John Boehner said Republicans will take a step-by-step approach to immigration reform.House Speaker John Boehner said Republicans will take a step-by-step approach to immigration reform.(AP) — House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday the "vast majority" of House Republicans believe they need to deal with immigration, but that they'll take a methodical, step-by-step approach and won't be held to any deadlines.

Legislation to secure the border and enforce immigration laws will come first, Boehner said. As for whether the House could ever agree to provide legal status or a path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants already in the country illegally, "Well, we're going to find out," Boehner said.

"Through all the conversations that have occurred, with my own members, with Democrat members, it's clear that dealing with this in bite-sized chunks that members can digest and the American people can digest is the smartest way to go," said Boehner, R-Ohio. "And so I'm much more concerned about doing it right than I am in meeting some deadline."

The Ohio Republican spoke at a news conference Thursday, a day after House GOP members met to hash out their way forward on immigration.

They emerged with a consensus on dealing with border security first and moving legislation in pieces, in contrast to the sweeping bill passed last month by the Senate on a bipartisan 68 to 32 vote. What to do about the millions already here illegally remained unanswered.

With Democrats insisting on a path to citizenship, that left it unclear whether Congress will be able to get any kind of immigration bill to President Barack Obama's desk. The issue is one of the president's top second-term priorities.

At the White House Thursday Obama met with two of the lead authors of the Senate bill, Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York and Republican John McCain of Arizona.

Despite the uncertainty, Schumer and McCain both expressed optimism about where things stand in the House.

"The caucus sent out a message yesterday, which was the right message, which is, doing nothing is not an option," Schumer said.

Obama took a largely behind-the-scenes role as the bill moved through the Senate, and McCain suggested it could be a mistake for him to mount a more public campaign in support of immigration reform as the House takes it up.

"We want to be very careful that we have the president's participation but these members, these Republican House members — many of them are in districts that they will be representing for a long time — do not feel that they have been unduly pressured by the president of the United States," McCain said. "So I think the president is walking a careful line here, and I think it's the appropriate one."

It's not clear whether the House will take any action this month before Congress breaks in early August for its annual month-long summer recess. That would push the issue to the fall, when fiscal and other deadlines loom that could compete with immigration on the legislative calendar. If the issue is delayed until next year, the politics could become even trickier because it's a midterm election year when all House members will face voters.

Rep. Peter King of New York said that if any legislation came to the floor for a vote this month, it would deal only with border security.

Other lawmakers said even that approach raised concerns. Dealing with border security, they said, could lead to negotiations with the Senate that could morph into a compromise granting citizenship for some of the immigrants in the country illegally. They sought and received assurances from Boehner that he wouldn't let that happen, according to Rep. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota.

Boehner also said he won't put any bill on the House floor that doesn't have the support of at least half of the GOP rank and file, a pledge that only increases the challenge for Democrats and others who want to give a chance at citizenship to millions now in the country illegally

In explaining their piecemeal approach, Boehner and fellow GOP leaders said the administration's recent decision to postpone a key element of the health care law shows it can't be trusted to carry through on commitments, such as the one in the Senate immigration bill requiring the borders to be secured before anyone here illegally can get permanent resident status.

Unlike the comprehensive, bipartisan bill that cleared the Senate last month, the House Judiciary Committee has cleared four smaller measures in recent weeks, none of which would include the possibility of citizenship.

One would toughen enforcement of immigration laws and includes a provision that would permit local police officers to enforce such laws as part of an attempt to raise the number of deportations.

Other measures would create a new mandatory system for employees to verify the legal status of their workers, create a new temporary program for farm workers and expand the number of visas for employees in technology industries.

By contrast, the Senate bill would increase border security, provide a pathway to citizenship for many of the estimated 11 million immigrants illegally in the country, expand the highly skilled worker program and set up new guest worker arrangements for lower-skilled workers and farm laborers.

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Latest Local News

Written on 09/17/2014, 4:17 pm by Business Journal staff
Fresno staffing firm Spherion will hold a job fair at its office on Sept. 18 in honor of National Staffing Employee Week.
Written on 09/17/2014, 2:25 pm by Associated Press
(AP) — The Dow Jones industrial average is closing at a record high after the Federal Reserve maintained its stance on record-low interest rates.The Dow rose 24 points, or 0.2 percent, to close at 17,156 Wednesday, surpassing its previous high from July by 18 points. The blue-chip average rose as much as 89 points after the Fed kept the phrase "considerable time," in referring to how long it would wait before raising interest rates. The Standard & Poor's 500 index edged up two points, or 0.1 percent, to finish at 2,001. The Nasdaq rose nine points, or 0.2 percent, to 4,562. The Fed has held the short-term rates it controls close to zero for more than five years, which has helped stimulate the economy and fueled a bull market for stocks.
Written on 09/17/2014, 1:17 pm by Associated Press
(AP) — For the second time this year, federal officials are releasing additional water from a Northern California reservoir to combat a parasite that threatens to kill thousands of salmon in the drought-parched Klamath River.The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation says it doubled the outflows from Lewiston Dam into the Trinity River on Tuesday, and will keep them up for seven days. It also increased flows last month to combat the same problem. The decision was made following discovery of a parasite known as Ich (ick), which attacks salmon in stagnant water conditions. Sampling this week found the parasite in nine of the 20 fish tested. During a drought in 2002, tens of thousands of salmon died in the Klamath, primarily from the Ich parasite.
Written on 09/17/2014, 1:02 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — Wells Fargo Bank has agreed to pay $290,000 to four tellers in Nevada to settle a same-sex sexual harassment case brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The lawsuit accused a female manager and female teller at a Reno bank of subjecting the four women to a sexually hostile work environment dating to December 2010. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says one of the tellers resigned in 2011 because she no longer could tolerate the women's graphic sexual comments, gestures and images. The commission says the four women also were told that they should wear sexually provocative clothing to help attract customers and advance in the workplace. Assistant bank vice president Tony Timmons said Wednesday it was an isolated incident. He says Wells Fargo is committed to a welcoming work environment.
Written on 09/17/2014, 12:59 pm by KRISTEN WYATT, Associated Press
(AP) — Tired of Cheech & Chong pot jokes and ominous anti-drug campaigns, the marijuana industry and activists are starting an ad blitz in Colorado aimed at promoting moderation and the safe consumption of pot. To get their message across, they are skewering some of the old Drug War-era ads that focused on the fears of marijuana, including the famous "This is your brain on drugs" fried-egg ad from the 1980s. They are planning posters, brochures, billboards and magazine ads to caution consumers to use the drug responsibly and warn tourists and first-timers about the potential to get sick from accidentally eating too much medical-grade pot. "So far, every campaign designed to educate the public about marijuana has relied on fear-mongering and insulting marijuana users," said Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, the nation's biggest pot-policy advocacy group. The MPP plans to unveil a billboard on Wednesday on a west Denver street where many pot shops are located that shows a woman slumped in a hotel room with the tagline: "Don't let a candy bar ruin your vacation." It's an allusion to Maureen Dowd, a New York Times columnist who got sick from eating part of a pot-infused candy bar on a visit to write about pot. The campaign is a direct response to the state's post-legalization marijuana-education efforts. One of them is intended to prevent stoned driving and shows men zoning out while trying to play basketball, light a grill or hang a television. Many in the industry said the ads showed stereotypical stoners instead of average adults. Even more concerning to activists is a youth-education campaign that relies on a human-sized cage and the message, "Don't Be a Lab Rat," along with warnings about pot and developing brains. The cage in Denver has been repeatedly vandalized. At least one school district rejected the traveling exhibit, saying it was well-intentioned but inappropriate. "To me, that's not really any different than Nancy Reagan saying 'Just Say No,'" said Tim Cullen, co-owner of four marijuana dispensaries and a critic of the "lab rat" campaign, referring to the former first lady's effort to combat drug use. A spokesman for the state Health Department welcomed the industry's ads, and defended the "lab rat" campaign. "It's been effective in starting a conversation about potential risks to youth from marijuana," Mark Salley said. The dueling campaigns come at a time when the industry is concerned about inexperienced consumers using edible pot. The popularity of edibles surprised some in the industry when legal-marijuana retail sales began in January. Edible pot products have been blamed for at least one death, of a college student who jumped to his death in Denver in March after consuming six times the recommended dose of edible marijuana. The headlines, including Dowd's experience, have been enough for the industry to promote moderation with edible pot. "I think the word has gotten out that you need to be careful with edibles," said Steve Fox, head of the Denver-based Council for Responsible Cannabis Regulation. The group organized the "First Time 5" campaign, which cautions that new users shouldn't eat more than 5 milligrams of marijuana's psychoactive ingredient, or half a suggested serving. The campaign warns users that edible pot can be much more potent than the marijuana they're smoking — and that the pot-infused treats on store shelves are much stronger than homemade brownies they may recall eating. The advocacy ads tackle anti-drug messaging from year past. Inside pictures of old TV sets are images from historic ads. Along with the fried-egg one is an image from one ad of a father finding his son's drug stash and demanding to know who taught him to use it. The kid answers: "You, all right! I learned it by watching you!" The print ad concludes, "Decades of fear-mongering and condescending anti-marijuana ads have not taught us anything about the substance or made anyone safer." It then directs viewers to, which is patterned after the alcohol industry's "Drink Responsibly" campaign. Marijuana activists plan to spend $75,000 by year's end and eventually expand it to Washington state, where pot is also legal.
Written on 09/17/2014, 12:55 pm by MATT SEDENSKY, Associated Press
(AP) — Americans suffer needless discomfort and undergo unwanted and costly care as they die, in part because of a medical system ruled by "perverse incentives" for aggressive care and not enough conversation about what people want, according to a report released Wednesday. Though people repeatedly stress a desire to die at home, free from pain, the opposite often happens, the Institute of Medicine found in its "Dying in America" report. Most people do not document their wishes on end-of-life care and even those who do face a medical system poorly suited to give them the death they want, the authors found. The result is breathing and feeding tubes, powerful drugs and other treatment that often fails to extend life and can make the final days more unpleasant. The report blamed a fee-for-service medical system in which "perverse incentives" exist for doctors and hospitals to choose the most aggressive care; inadequate training for those caring for the dying and physicians who default to life-saving treatment because they worry about liability. "It's not an intentional thing. It's a systemic problem," said David Walker, the former U.S. comptroller general, who co-chaired the committee that issued the report. Advance directives including living wills have been unpopular and ineffective, the report said. It urged repeated conversations about patients' wishes beginning far earlier than many would think — perhaps as teenagers — and continuing the talks throughout life. "The fee-for-service model, the lack of coordination between medical and social services, the challenges that individuals face in finding a provider who's willing and knowledgeable to speak with them about death and dying all conspire against them coming up with the right individual plan," said Dr. Philip Pizzo, a co-chair with Walker. The report praised programs in palliative care, which focuses on treating pain, minimizing side effects, coordinating care among doctors and ensuring concerns of patients and their families are addressed. This type of care has expanded rapidly in the past several decades and is now found in a majority of U.S. hospitals, but the report said many physicians have no training in it. In many ways, the report is a repudiation of the controversy created by the term "death panel" in response to the President Barack Obama's health care law. The claim centered on the government saving money by deciding who would live and who would die. In fact, the 500-page report authored by 21 experts said the very type of end-of-life care Americans say they want would shrink medical bills and reduce the governmental burden. "They will have a higher quality of life and it's very likely to be less expensive," said Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, a frequent voice on end-of-life issues who reviewed the report. "But the main key here is that we should be giving people what they want." Blumenauer has sponsored a bill to allow Medicare to pay doctors for having end-of-life conversations with patients, the very idea that set off the "death panel" fury, which generated the most widespread and high-profile conversations on end-of-life care in the U.S. since the case of Terri Schiavo. She was a brain-damaged Florida woman who became the center of a protracted court fight over having her feeding tube removed.
Written on 09/17/2014, 11:49 am by Ben Keller
Fresno pasta maker Fiore Di Pasta is following the demand for gluten-free products as it expands its facility on Jensen Avenue. The company has been churning out pasta products like tortellinis, ravioli, manicotti, entrees and even sauces for the last 15 years from its nearly 23,000 square-foot processing plant at 4776 Jensen Ave. in southeast Fresno Now, Fiore Di Pasta is preparing for the future with a new 36,000 square-foot building being built by Valley Steel Construction of Fresno on the north side of its 4 1/2-acre property. When expansion is finished in early November, co-owner Anthony Primavera said he plans to use around two-thirds of the space for cold storage, consolidating everything the company is currently renting out at U.S. Cold Storage nearby or coming from its former facility on Church and Orange avenues that Fiore Di Pasta sold to Pressed Juicery in May. Another 10,000 to 15,000 square feet will be used for more manufacturing, he said, facilitating future growth and possibly making way for gluten free products. “There's a good demand for it,” Primavera said. “We do make some and we have a lot of requests for it.” Another part of the company’s growth is the launch of its own label dubbed Primavera Fine Foods that’s expected to come on line in the next few months. In addition to making products for private labels as the company’s done for years, Primavera is hoping the new name will finally put Fiore Di Pasta’s image out there, with plans to hit all the major retailers starting with West Coast stores.   “We’re also in the process of opening a retail store front (on Jensen Avenue),” Primavera said. He added that the expansion may also provide more job opportunities at the facility beyond the 60 to 70 workers there during peak season. Before Fiore Di Pasta, Primavera’s parents, Panfilo and Benedetta Primavera, founded Fresno Ravioli with business partners in 1979 using the traditions of their native lands of Abruzzo, Italy. In 1994, with the help of his wife and sons, Panfilo established Fiore Di Pasta—meaning “the best of pasta” in Italian—beginning with another facility on Marks and Dakota avenues. Although Panfilo passed away earlier this year at the age of 72, the company continues to grow under Anthony and his brother to now producing more than five millions pounds of pasta products each year.
Written on 09/17/2014, 11:28 am by Business Journal staff
Several Valley lawmakers were honored by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) for their voting record on behalf of America's small business owners.Based on the voting records in its "How Congress Voted" report card unveiled this week, the NFIB will present its Guardian of Small Business Award to 232 representatives of the 113th Congress. Those who voted favorably on 15 key small business issues at least 70 percent of the time were eligible for the award. Among them were Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) who voted with the NFIB 100 percent of the time. Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford), and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) and Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Granite Bay) also scored 100 percent in the NFIB's rankings. Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno) didn't make the cut, however, only voting with the NFIB 44 percent of the time. In preparing its report card, the NFIB considered votes on key House and Senate legislation, including America’s Small Business Tax Relief Act of 2014 (H.R. 4457), Preventing Greater Uncertainty in Labor-Management Relations Act (H.R. 1120), Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act of 2013 (H.R. 2655), Minimum Wage Increase (S. 2223) and Prevention of Taxing Carbon Emissions Amendment (S.Amdt. 261). "Small-business owners are very politically active—paying close attention to how their lawmakers vote on key business issues and stand by those who stand for them," said NFIB President and CEO Dan Danner.
Written on 09/17/2014, 10:37 am by Associated Press
(AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Tuesday that will require the first-ever rules for pumping groundwater in California. Why lawmakers and the governor acted, and what the new laws mean:WHAT IS GROUNDWATER? It's the water that accumulates below the earth's surface, filling empty spaces and cracks in the rock. Farmers and agencies can tap it by drilling wells. It's an especially valuable source of water during times of drought, providing 60 percent of the state's supply as reservoirs, rivers and other sources dry up. Some farmers even turn to dowsers, or water witches, to guide them to the underwater reserves. About 30 million Californians rely on groundwater for some portion of their drinking water supply, according to state figures. WHAT'S THE PROBLEM? Some areas are being pumped faster than they can be replenished with rain, snowmelt and irrigation runoff. And as California faces the third year of a serious drought, farmers have been in an expensive race to drill the deepest wells. Over-pumping can compress soil and rocks, making them more compact and permanently reducing the underground water storage capacity. That also leads to sinking land, or subsidence, which can damage roads, canals and other structures. HOW IS GROUNDWATER MANAGED NOW? Not very closely. Under California's Gold Rush-era water rights system, many landowners are entitled to pump as much as they please on their property. Other states treat groundwater as a shared resource regulated and monitored by state agencies. Some local agencies in California have sustainable plans for managing groundwater, but no statewide standards currently exist. WHAT'S THE PROPOSED SOLUTION? The legislation signed Tuesday maintains a local approach with state oversight. It requires agencies in fast-depleting basins to draw up sustainability plans and allows for water meters and fines for monitoring and enforcement. It does not go as far as other Western states by granting state agencies the power to authorize or prohibit groundwater withdrawals, but the California Water Resources Control Board can now intervene if locals fail to act or come up with inadequate solutions. WHO IS AFFECTED BY THE LEGISLATION? The state water department identifies 127 groundwater basins and sub-basins that are high or medium priority for monitoring, mostly concentrated along the agriculture-heavy Central Valley and some areas surrounding Los Angeles. That's only a quarter of all California groundwater basins, but they account for almost 96 percent of California's groundwater pumping. HOW WILL THE NEW LAWS ROLL OUT? First, local land planners have until 2017 to choose or establish a groundwater sustainability agency. Those agencies then have until 2020 or 2022, depending on how dire their situation is, to draw up sustainability plans. Those plans should put groundwater basins on a path to sustainability by 2040. WHO SUPPORTS AND OPPOSES THE LAWS? Democratic lawmakers pushed the legislation, ultimately winning support from key groups that include the Association of California Water Agencies and Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. But Republicans and some Central Valley Democrats opposed the bills, saying they would infringe on property rights and hurt well-managed agencies. The legislation drew the ire of some agricultural interests that are increasingly dependent on groundwater, such as the California Farm Bureau.
Written on 09/17/2014, 10:33 am by Associated Press
(AP) — Insurer Anthem Blue Cross is joining with several prominent Southern California hospitals to offer a new type of insurance plan it promises will provide high-quality care at affordable prices.Details of the joint venture, to be called Vivity, were being announced Wednesday at a news conference in Los Angeles. The move brings together one of the nation's largest health insurers with such providers as Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and the UCLA Health System. The Los Angeles Times ( reports that the California Public Employees' Retirement System, the nation's second-largest buyer of health insurance, has already signed on as one of Vivity's first customers. Vivity is expected to provide competition to Kaiser Permanente, the health maintenance organization currently favored by the largest number of California employers providing insurance coverage to workers.

Latest State News

Written on 09/17/2014, 1:17 pm by Associated Press
(AP) — For the second time this year,...
Written on 09/17/2014, 1:02 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — Wells Fargo Bank has agreed to...
Written on 09/17/2014, 10:37 am by Associated Press
(AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown signed...
Written on 09/17/2014, 10:33 am by Associated Press
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Latest National News

Written on 09/17/2014, 2:25 pm by Associated Press
(AP) — The Dow Jones industrial...
Written on 09/17/2014, 12:59 pm by KRISTEN WYATT, Associated Press
(AP) — Tired of Cheech & Chong pot...
Written on 09/17/2014, 12:55 pm by MATT SEDENSKY, Associated Press
(AP) — Americans suffer needless...
Written on 09/17/2014, 9:47 am by 
(AP) — Cuts to the nation's food stamp...