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District News Report

District News Report has 73 articles published.

Assemblymember Gray’s Statement on Water Allocation Cuts

Assemblymember Adam C. Gray (D-Merced) released the following statement after the Department of Water Resources announced the state and federal governments were imposing significant water allocation cuts on farmers and other water users:

“California’s water infrastructure is so broken that we can suffer from severe flooding and drought in the same year. So-called environmentalists have tried to use climate change to justify everything from subsidizing Tesla to banning the car outright. At the same time, they have ignored the impacts of climate change that demand we significantly expand our surface water reservoirs.

Over the next few decades, climate change will cause California’s snowpack to shrink by a third or more because warming temperatures will cause snow to fall as rain instead. That means instead of growing our snowpack during colder months and collecting that snowmelt during spring and summer, we need reservoirs that allow us to collect water all year long. That is the real inconvenient truth for special interests like the Sierra Club and NRDC who religiously oppose any new water storage.

The only significant funding package to address water infrastructure in the last decade was the Water Bond that I helped negotiate in 2014. Since then, my repeated calls for increasing our state’s water storage capacity have fallen on deaf ears.

These reductions are evidence that we need to address all of the impacts of climate change instead of only the aspects blessed by the far left.”

GRAY CALLS OUT CONGRESS FOR BANNING SMALL BUSINESS TAX CUTS

Assemblyman Adam C. Gray (D-Merced) released the following statement after revelations the federal coronavirus aid bill prohibits states from passing small business tax cuts: “I introduced legislation earlier this year to provide a COVID-19 tax credit for small and essential businesses. My bill was set to be heard in committee today, but the State Legislature has now been forced to sideline dozens of tax credits after it was revealed the federal stimulus bill bans states from cutting taxes.

“…federal coronavirus aid bill prohibits states from passing small business tax cuts…”

“Because California’s billionaires are making record profits on Wall Street, Congress has banned small businesses on Main Street from receiving a tax cut. This prohibition even applies to struggling businesses that have received zero dollars in federal and state aid.

“…Because California’s billionaires are making record profits on Wall Street, Congress has banned small businesses on Main Street from receiving a tax cut…”

“This is a critical year in the State Legislature where we have a real opportunity to permanently lower California’s infamously high taxes. Instead, Congress has stopped that effort before it even got started. What’s worse, they placed no such prohibition on tax increases, opening the door for special interests to pursue billions of dollars in tax hikes.

“I am urging California’s Congressional delegation to reverse this provision immediately. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy. We cannot abandon them just as we are beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel.”

More information on the implications of the federal tax cut ban can be found HERE.

Assemblymember Gray’s Statement on 2021-22 Budget Proposal

(Sacramento) – Assemblymember Adam C. Gray (D-Merced) released the following statement in response to Governor Newsom’s 2021 State Budget proposal:

Assemblymember Adam Gray

“The State Budget is an expression of California’s priorities. While there is plenty of detail left to be worked out, Governor Newsom continues to make good on his promise to keep the San Joaquin Valley a priority.

Governor Gavin Newsom

“Last year, the Governor made a commitment to permanently fund a new UC medical school in the Valley. True to his word, the budget maintains funding for our medical school, and we remain on track to enroll our first class of future Valley doctors in 2023. As we continue to struggle with 0% ICU capacity in no small part because of our doctor and nursing shortage, this is a truly transformational and long-overdue investment in the health and wellbeing of everyone who calls the Valley home.

“The Valley also has a disproportionate number of people enrolled in Medi-Cal and elevated rates of diabetes impacting our most vulnerable communities. I have fought for years to expand Medi-Cal to cover continuous glucose monitors. It’s a common-sense reform that 40 other states, Medicare, and every commercial health plan in the state have already adopted. More than 20 other legislators joined me last month in urging the Governor to make this happen in the budget after revelations that over one-third of COVID-19 deaths are linked to patients with diabetes. Today, the Governor took decisive action to provide Medi-Cal patients with diabetes the same standard of care as everyone else. This cannot be overstated; chronic illness and premature death will be prevented because of this reform.

“Finally, I was glad to hear the Governor rebuke those who have called for tax increases to make up for a budget deficit that simply has not materialized. Increasing taxes during a global pandemic and economic recession is moronic. We should be looking for opportunities to lower taxes as families continue to struggle to make ends meet. I hope Congress was paying attention to the Governor’s comments as well. Tax increases are off the table.”

Chancellor Dr. Juan Sánchez Muñoz

UC Merced Chancellor Dr. Juan Sánchez Muñoz applauded the Governor and Assemblymember Gray for their ongoing commitment to address the Valley’s longstanding shortage of health care providers:

“This pandemic has made clarion clear the importance of the state’s continued investment in bringing reliable access to health care to its most underserved regions. UC Merced’s collaboration with UCSF Fresno is critical to building a pipeline of physicians for the region who come from the communities they will serve. We are grateful to the Governor for his ongoing commitment and to Assemblymember Gray for his steadfast dedication to keeping UC Merced’s medical education aspirations and the San Joaquin Valley front and center in Sacramento.”

Assemblymember Gray’s Statement on Being Stripped of Committee Chairmanship

Assemblymember Adam Gray leads a Rally to Fight the State Water Grab on the Capitol Steps in Sacramento on Monday, August 20, 2018 to protect the Valley’s water, agriculture and economy.

Sacramento, CA – Assemblymember Adam C. Gray (D-Merced) released the following statement after being stripped of his position as Chair of the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee.

History repeats itself.

“Five years ago, I fought to pass legislation to hold the State Water Board accountable for the devastating economic impacts the state water grab will inflict on the people living in my district and the greater San Joaquin Valley. Despite active opposition from legislative leadership, my bill was approved by a narrow committee vote, and I was summarily removed from my position on the Assembly Water Committee.

“This year, Speaker Anthony Rendon and State Water Board staff put forward special legislation to short-circuit the voluntary agreements being negotiated by the state and our local irrigation districts. The language was inserted into a Budget Trailer bill and gave the State Water Board staff the authority to implement an even more destructive version of their water grab without review and without even a public vote. I voted no.

“As a result of my commitment to defend my district, Speaker Rendon has stripped me of my position as Chair of the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee.

“I have spent my entire time in public office fighting Sacramento’s insatiable thirst for the Valley’s water. Every time I am punished by my own party’s leadership for standing up for my district, it is a reminder that I was elected to represent the people who live and work in Merced and Stanislaus counties.

“No elected official should ever vote for policies that promise to destroy thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic opportunity in their district for the benefit of others. I remain unmoved. I would and will vote no again.”

The State Water Resources Control Board (“SWRCB”) is engaged in an inappropriate and unacceptable action designed to short-circuit the regulatory process and kill the spirit of negotiation. This action would have lasting health, economic and social impacts on the 460,000 people living in my Assembly District as well as the millions living in the San Joaquin Valley.

Letter to Director Sobeck from Assemblymember Adam Gray

Assemblymember Adam Gray leads a Rally to Fight the State Water Grab on the Capitol Steps in Sacramento on Monday, August 20, 2018 to protect the Valley’s water, agriculture and economy.

Read the Bee Editorial Board from 2015 “Speaker Atkins Punishes Gray for trying to help Valley”

EDITORIAL: Speaker Atkins punishes Gray for trying to help Valley
BY THE BEE EDITORIAL BOARD

APRIL 22, 2015 05:37 PM
·
It’s not easy being a “Valleycrat,” as Assembly Member Adam Gray of Merced learned the hard way last week.

For those unfamiliar with the term, a Valleycrat is a Democrat from the San Joaquin Valley whose political beliefs are more conservative than party members from coastal California. Valleycrats often focus on pragmatic solutions to thorny problems and try to stick up for their constituents.

The rub comes when sticking up for constituents — or even voting your conscience — puts you at odds with the liberal Democratic leadership that runs the Legislature.

You can end up in the infamous “doghouse,” the smallest office in the Capitol, as happened to then-Assembly Member Juan Arambula in 2006. Arambula’s sin was not voting on a public works bond package because it did not include money for dams. Arambula bolted the party and became an Independent.

Another Valleycrat, then-Assembly Member Nicole Parra of Hanford, was ordered from her office in 2008 as punishment for bucking the party on a budget vote. Karen Bass, the Speaker at the time, was so mad she assigned Parra space across the street in a building where no other lawmakers were quartered.

But we digress.

Gray was dismissed from the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee by Speaker Toni Atkins of San Diego after his Assembly Bill 1242 passed its first committee vote April 14. A member of Atkins’ staff told The Modesto Bee it was a routine reassignment. Don’t you believe it.

AB 1242 is important to the Valley. Basically, it anticipates the demands expected from the State Water Resources Control Board that more water be left in rivers for the benefit of fish and downstream users. AB 1242 would require the state to recognize the potential harm of these demands and take steps to mitigate that damage.

Understand: The expectation was that Gray’s bill wouldn’t make it out of committee. But AB 1242 passed despite long odds, largely because at least two dozen people from Modesto and Merced cared enough to attend the vote and testify about its importance. Dozens of others submitted letters explaining the impact the state’s expected water grab will have on farming and residents.

Atkins should not believe for a second that the Valley will sit quietly while she tries to silence our voices with her childish party games. Give her a taste of Valley straight talk by email, http://asmdc.org/speaker/, phone (916) 319-2078, Twitter @toniatkins, or in writing State Capitol, P.O. Box 942849; Sacramento, CA 94249-0078.

Assemblyman Gray Says State Should Foot the Bill for New COVID-19 Regulations

Assemblymember Adam C. Gray introduces  Assembly Bill 62 to provide a tax credit for essential and small businesses seeking to comply with costly new COVID-19 regulations.

“While the 5th largest economy in the world has failed to address longstanding shortages of swabs, reagents, and lab capacity associated with COVID-19 testing, Cal/OSHA wants to fine your local donut shop for running out of hand sanitizer or being unable to obtain and afford an infinite number of tests,” said Assemblymember Gray. 

“Instead of putting our money where our mouth is, State regulators continue to push the costs associated with COVID-19 onto employers, many of whom are already struggling to keep their doors open. Voters soundly rejected this kind of government overreach when they defeated Prop 15. But recently adopted Cal/OSHA regulations double-down on such schemes by imposing burdensome testing, PPE, and other regulatory requirements on employers of every size. 

“The State cannot hold small businesses to a higher standard than it is willing to hold itself. COVID-19 cases are spiraling throughout the state, yet state government has had nothing but excuses for why unemployment checks are late, testing supplies are running out in rural communities, contracts to boost lab capacity and essential supplies of PPE keep falling through. Now, hospitalizations are breaking records despite a prolonged economic shutdown. 

“While the State pays no penalty for its incompetence or indifference, Cal/OSHA has adopted dozens of new regulations that owners of small businesses will be forced to meet no matter the cost. “AB 62 flips this script. It will provide a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for any costs associated with complying with these new regulations. Instead of the State dictating rules from Sacramento, it will allow the State to partner with small businesses as we defeat this global pandemic.

“I can already hear those who created and supported these regulations saying the State cannot afford to spend the billions of dollars it will likely cost to implement this bill. Well, now you know how small business owners feel. After 9 months of enormous sacrifice and struggle, do you really think the small-business owners of California can afford it any better?”

Merced Golden Valley FFA Award Winners

We should all be very proud of our youth.  Look at the achievements that these Merced’s Golden Valley FFA members have made by becoming 2020 National FFA Proficiency Finalists in Environmental and Natural Resources proficiency, Fruit Production proficiency, Beef Production Entrepreneurship and Fiber and Oil Production proficiency.  


Please watch their video stories.

Spencer Stephens
2020 National FFA Proficiency Finalist
Environmental & Natural Resources
Josh Heupel
2020 National FFA Proficiency Finalist
Fruit Production
Hunter Aue
2020 National FFA Proficiency Finalist
Beef Production Entrepreneurship
Peter Bliss
2020 National FFA Proficiency Finalist
Fiber & Oil Production

Read: Merced Sun-Star details Golden Valley FFA chapter being named best in California.

More Golden Valley FFA Award winners. Photo from the Merced Sun-Star news story.

Learn More: Golden Valley FFA Facebook Page

River agreements stall amid focus on delta litigation

With state and federal administrations fighting in court about delta water operations—and with a pandemic and election year both underway—work has slowed on voluntary agreements meant to avoid severe cuts to northern San Joaquin Valley water supplies.

At issue is the first phase of a State Water Resources Control Board plan for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Adopted in 2018, the regulatory regime would require water users in San Joaquin River tributaries to leave 30% to 50% of unimpaired flows in the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers to benefit protected fish. Water users have pressed the state to pursue voluntary agreements that could achieve the same fisheries goals without the significant water-supply impacts.

California agency leaders say conversations on voluntary agreements continue, though slowly.

“Right now, we are in what has been a pause as far as implementing voluntary agreements,” California Secretary for Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot told the State Board of Food and Agriculture last month.

Early this year, state water and resource agencies released a framework for voluntary agreements among agencies and water users that rely on the San Joaquin River tributaries.

“We have to turn that framework into a legally enforceable agreement among a range of water users and third parties,” Crowfoot said, adding that the effort has become more challenging, given the dispute between state and federal governments over delta operations and how best to protect endangered species.

The two administrations have been in court regarding new federal biological opinions that determined the proposed long-term operations of the federal Central Valley Project and State Water Project do not jeopardize continued existence of protected salmon and delta smelt. In response, the state issued an environmental permit for the SWP that could place its operation in conflict with that of the CVP.

California Farm Bureau Federation Senior Counsel Chris Scheuring said the effort to create voluntary agreements on delta tributaries has stalled in the meantime.

“We look at the voluntary agreements with so much hope, but now with some exasperation, because it’s a process that’s been hung up and the recent descent into litigation in the delta is not helpful,” Scheuring said. “We hope the state and the federal governments can reconcile delta operations, so that the Sacramento-San Joaquin system can go forward on a reasonable basis to find ways to distribute water under vested water rights, while doing good things for fish species.”

For the state’s part, Crowfoot said, “The goal, frankly, is to move beyond that legal process as quickly as possible to find a settlement with our federal partners on the biological opinions and to resolve legal disputes on our state permit. Settling out these legal issues will allow parties to get back to the table on the voluntary agreements.”

At a virtual meeting regarding the delta last week, state Department of Water Resources Director Karla Nemeth said the state continues to meet with tributary stakeholders.

“Specific to the incidental take permit and the voluntary agreements, there is a degree of potential interaction between those things, should the voluntary agreements be completed over the course of the next months or a year or so,” Nemeth said, adding that the state agency is “in communication with our federal colleagues around how we might bridge some differences between the biological opinions and the California ESA permit and the voluntary agreements.”

Speaking to the CFBF Board of Directors this spring, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman said she would like “to see the state come to the table as far as looking for real long-term solutions,” and said state and federal agencies have continued to coordinate daily delta operations.

The Modesto Irrigation District, which with the Turlock Irrigation District owns the Don Pedro Hydroelectric Project on the Tuolumne River, remains in discussions about voluntary agreements for the river, according to district spokeswoman Melissa Williams.

In addition, Williams reported progress in relicensing the facility through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which last week issued the final environmental impact statement for the project.

On the Merced River, the Merced Irrigation District concluded a years-long FERC process for the New Exchequer Dam this month.

Farm Bureau’s Scheuring noted that the FERC process gives government agencies and advocacy organizations additional opportunities to seek more water requirements or other concessions from reservoir operators. Under the federal Clean Water Act, the state water board has qualified authority to review, condition and certify consistency of FERC relicensing decisions with state water quality law.

Should voluntary agreements on the San Joaquin tributaries eventually be reached, the process would include finalizing governance, policy and legal issues, and submitting a proposal to the state water board for review.

A second phase of the board’s bay-delta plan affecting Sacramento River tributaries has not yet been released.

California Assemblymember Adam Gray, D-Merced, said he and many stakeholders in his district, which includes Merced County and part of Stanislaus County, remain committed to finding voluntary agreements.

“Unfortunately, we’re not there yet,” Gray said, “and it seems like it’s been difficult to get people to the table in a meaningful way with the polarization and political posturing by both the state and federal government.”

Private water-rights attorney Tim O’Laughlin said he expects to have a better idea of progress for the voluntary agreements in two or three months.

“Right now, the agreements are just in limbo, hanging out there,” O’Laughlin said. “There are some preliminary discussions, but with COVID and litigation, they definitely got pushed back. They may get resurrected, but I just don’t see that any time soon.”

Article written by Christine Souza for the California Farm Bureau Federation.

THE STORY ABOUT THE COLONEL HOWARD PROJECT

A few months back I was asked to assist with an extremely special project: reuniting the family of Colonel Robert Lewis Howard, a Medal of Honor recipient of the Vietnam War, with the Colonel’s medals, beret, and other belongings. This week, I received these photos, which were such a lovely surprise! 

Adam Gray – California Assembly-member for the 21st Assembly District

Colonel Robert Lewis Howard (July 11, 1939 – December 23, 2009) was a highly decorated United States Army Special Forces officer and Medal of Honor recipient of the Vietnam War. He was wounded 14 times over 54 months of combat, was awarded the Medal of Honor, eight Purple Hearts, a Distinguished Service Cross, a Silver Star, and four Bronze Stars. He retired from the US Army the most highly decorated service member on active duty, after 36 years of service as a full colonel.

Mr. Hart owned a self-storage unit in Dos Palos, where Colonel Howard eventually placed many of his belongings. After several months had passed without receiving rent and unable to contact the Colonel or his family, Mr. Hart opened the storage unit and discovered the Colonel’s medals, beret, and many other items. Mr. Hart then found out the Colonel had passed away, and he was eventually able to reach the Colonel’s nephew (in Dos Palos) and the Colonel’s son (in Merced). They arranged for the return of most of the items, but Mr. Hart brought the beret to me and asked if I would have it framed, so he could present it to his son.

These photos are from the delivery of the beret.

State Budget Makes the Valley’s Dream of a UC Medical School a Reality

(Sacramento) – Assemblymember Adam C. Gray (D-Merced) released the following statement in response to the passage of the 2020 State Budget:

“Earlier this year, I said that a UC medical school in the Valley should be the legacy of this pandemic, not one of its victims. Today, that legacy became a reality. The 2020 State Budget provides $15 million per year every year to support a medical school at UCSF-Fresno and UC Merced. This represents the culmination of decades of tireless work and advocacy that will radically change the health care landscape in the San Joaquin Valley.

“Just as UC Merced has redefined who can go to college by enrolling more first-generation college students than any other campus in the UC system, this medical school will redefine who can be a doctor. It makes medical school a more realistic option for the thousands of Valley students who are qualified to become doctors but who cannot afford to move to places like San Francisco, Los Angeles, or Orange County.

“We know the best way to address the Valley’s shortage of medical providers is to recruit local students, train them close to home, and match them with local residencies. If we check all three of those boxes, they are nearly guaranteed to stay and practice medicine in the Valley. That dream scenario is no longer just a good idea. It is now something that will actually happen.

“When I requested that $1 million be included in the 2015 State Budget to study how to establish a UC medical school in the Valley, I could not have predicted we would be as far along as we are today. By leveraging the incredible resources already available at UCSF-Fresno and UC Merced, we found a path to a medical school in years instead of decades and for millions instead of billions.

“The incredibly talented faculty working at UCSF-Fresno are already graduating hundreds of medical residents every year. Very soon, they and their UC Merced counterparts will begin training our first wave of medical students who will make the promise of health care for all a reality.”

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