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Tuesday, February 4, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Danielle Griffin | (559) 967-3604                         

            Merced County Fair Selected For Facility Improvement Project

State funds designated to improve California fairgrounds for overall operations and

use as emergency response sites

MERCED, CALIFORNIA, February 4, 2020 – The Merced County Fair is proud to announce it has been selected by the California Department of Food & Agriculture (CDFA) Fairs & Expositions Branch to receive funding from the State’s $3 million of general fund monies allocated through the Budget Act of 2018, Control Section 6.10. The Merced County Fair is set to receive $798,950 to install a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system in the fair’s Pavilion building.

 

“This truly is a game changer for our fairgrounds,” said Teresa Burrola, CEO of the Merced County Fair. “Currently the Pavilion building only has evaporative cooling, which is inadequate during the hot summer months here in the Central Valley. Due to that, we’ve seen a decrease in rentals of this building during that time, which hurts us financially as year round rentals sustain operations outside our annual fair.”

 

The project selection comes after the fair submitted five projects for consideration as part of the Facility Condition Assessment of California fairgrounds. Out of 74 fairgrounds in California, there were 64 fairgrounds that submitted projects; only 12 projects were selected for the first round of funding. All projects will be overseen and managed by the California Construction Authority (CCA) or the Department of General Services (DGS) and must be completed by March 2022.

 

In 2017, Assemblyman Adam Gray authored Assembly Bill 1499, which enabled the creation of these funds through a percentage of the sales tax revenue generated on fair properties within the State. “We can’t express our gratitude enough for Assemblyman Gray’s championing of these funds that are critical to the longevity of fairgrounds that serve their communities in so many ways,” said Burrola.

 

Friday, January 24, 2020

ASSEMBLYMEMBER ADAM C. GRAY
21ST ASSEMBLY DISTRICT
For Immediate Release: January 24, 2020
Contact: Adam Capper
Phone: (916) 319-2021

Gray Introduces Legislation to Repeal the Ticket Tax

(Sacramento) – Assemblymember Adam C. Gray (D-Merced) released the following statement upon introducing Assembly Bill 1980 to repeal the automatic 20% tax on traffic tickets imposed by the state:

“During a time of fiscal uncertainty nearly two decades ago, the state imposed a 20% tax on traffic tickets and devoted the funding to prop up the General Fund. At the time, the state promised this was a temporary measure, but to the surprise of no one eventually made the tax permanent just a few years later.

“The State Auditor has repeatedly recommended this tax be eliminated. The revenue does not support law enforcement or any specific public safety program. Instead, the funds are up for grabs every year to spend with no accountability to the public. This tax amounts to nearly $40 million per year stolen from taxpayers without explanation.

“I introduced a similar bill last year in partnership with Stanislaus County Sheriff Jeff Dirkse who knows this tax has nothing to do with improving safety on our roads. We received the support of law enforcement groups like the Peace Officers’ Research Association and criminal justice groups like Restore Justice and the ACLU.

“All sides agree this tax is unjust, indefensible, and long overdue for repeal.

“This year we will redouble our efforts, and with Governor Newsom indicating his support for reforms like this in the budget, I am confident we will succeed.”

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Michael Liedtke, Ap Business Writer

Updated 1:36 pm PST, Wednesday, January 15, 2020

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A state lawmaker on Wednesday demanded an extensive review of the California Public Utilities Commission to determine whether regulators’ lax oversight enabled neglect at Pacific Gas & Electric that triggered catastrophic wildfires, a messy bankruptcy and exasperating blackouts.

The request by Assemblyman Adam Gray could turn up the heat on the commission as it prepares to play a key role in determining PG&E's future.

The nation's largest utility has submitted a rehabilitation plan that must be approved by the commission and a federal bankruptcy judge by June 30 to qualify for coverage from a special fund state lawmakers created to help insulate California utilities from massive losses if their power lines ignite more devastating fires.

PG&E landed in bankruptcy nearly a year ago after a series of wildfires blamed on the utility in 2017 and 2018 killed nearly 130 people and destroyed nearly 28,000 homes, raising the specter that it might be asked to pay more than $50 billion in claimed losses.

Gray, a Democrat from Merced, thinks it's time for his fellow lawmakers to assign the state auditor to dig deeper into the commission and analyze “what went wrong” at an agency that can sometimes seem arcane to the millions of Californians who depend on it to set the prices they pay for electricity and natural gas.

PG&E deserves plenty of blame for neglecting to upgrade its power system during the past decade as climate change increased wildfire risks, but “government incompetence is also part of the story,” Gray said in a statement. He asserted the commission “knew about the decaying and outdated condition of PG&E's infrastructure, yet they failed to act.”

The commission did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

ASSEMBLYMEMBER ADAM C. GRAY
21ST ASSEMBLY DISTRICT
For Immediate Release: January 15, 2020
Contact: Adam Capper
Phone: (916) 319-2021

 

Assemblymember Gray Seeks Audit of State Regulator’s Failure to Prevent Utility Wildfires

 

(Sacramento) – Assemblymember Adam C. Gray (D-Merced) has submitted a request to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee seeking a state audit of the California Public Utilities Commission. As the state’s primary entity tasked with the regulation of public utilities, Gray’s audit letter seeks information about the commission’s role in PG&E’s inadequate and dangerous management of its power lines which sparked some of the most destructive wildfires in California history.

“A lot of the conversation around utilities and wildfires has focused on shareholders and executives at PG&E placing their own profits over the public’s safety,” said Gray. “That criticism is well deserved. Shareholders are just now realizing it would have cost a lot less to make responsible safety improvements over time rather than go through bankruptcy with multi-billion dollar settlements.

“However, government incompetence is also part of the story. The CPUC regulates public utilities and knew about the decaying and outdated condition of PG&E’s infrastructure, yet they failed to act. Instead, the commission often denied what little safety improvements were proposed by the utility.

“Many have pointed to climate change to explain the dangerous conditions which allowed recent wildfires to grow so quickly and burn so intensely. Ironically, the CPUC has been at the center of the state’s fight against climate change since the passage of the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. Instead of raising the alarm that climate change will make dangerous wildfire conditions more common, the commission has pushed its Safety and Enforcement Division to the bottom of the priority list.

“I am asking the State Auditor to provide an independent and nonpartisan analysis of what went wrong at the CPUC. Why was public safety not a priority for the commission, and why were grid improvements like burying power lines in fire prone areas not approved? Despite playing a central role in helping California adapt to climate change in other areas, why was the CPUC asleep at the wheel on the risk of utility caused wildfires?

"The state has promised not to allow these tragedies to happen again. In order to fulfill that promise, we need answers to these questions. If the CPUC is not capable of ensuring the public's safety, then it is time we figure out a new way to regulate public utilities so that homes, businesses, and families come first."

Gray’s audit request will be voted on by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee at a hearing scheduled for February 19th.

Monday, December 23, 2019
Assemblymember Gray meeting with constituents at Holiday Open House
Assemblymember Gray meeting with constituents at Holiday Open House
Assemblymember Gray meeting with constituents at Holiday Open House
Assemblymember Gray meeting with constituents at Holiday Open House
Assemblymember Gray meeting with constituents at Holiday Open House
Assemblymember Gray meeting with constituents at Holiday Open House
Assemblymember Gray meeting with constituents at Holiday Open House
Assemblymember Gray meeting with constituents at Holiday Open House
Assemblymember Gray taking a selfie with a constituent
Assemblymember Gray meeting with constituents at Holiday Open House
Wednesday, October 23, 2019
Tuesday, October 1, 2019

   

  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

  DATE: 10/1/2019    

  Contact: Amber Edwards, Director of Marketing and Communications

                  209.422.6421, aedwards@opportunitystanislaus.com

                                                                                                                                                  

Modesto Projects Become Recipients of Region’s Biggest Ever EDA Grant

 

Modesto, CA– Students at two Stanislaus County schools will be training on cutting-edge equipment, thanks to a grant of nearly one million dollars received from the Economic Development Administration, a bureau within the United States Department of Commerce. The training is expected to save 453 jobs while creating at least 20 new positions.

 

The funding, allocated to VOLT Institute and Modesto Junior College (MJC), will be used for the purchase of equipment on par with machines used in industrial settings at local employers. David White, Chief Executive Officer of Opportunity Stanislaus, the organization responsible for conceptualizing VOLT Institute, knows the importance of high-tech equipment in the classroom. “The feedback we keep getting from employers is that our program is solid but that having equipment in the classroom similar to the machines students will be using in the field after graduation is essential to their success,” said White. “We are launching PLC training in our next class starting in October and this will allow us to add coursework from the nationally-recognized NIMS system to our offerings. We are especially excited to offer Amatrol’s popular mechatronics course.”

 

For its part Modesto Junior College, a trailblazer in creating career pathways that lead to local jobs, will be adding equipment that complements its Career Technical Education programs with partner high schools. “We are happy to work with Opportunity Stanislaus, the Stanislaus County Office of Education (SCOE), and local employers. This grant helps build a pipeline for local residents to gain technical skills and advance their careers through additional training and education,” remarked Modesto Junior College President Dr. James Houpis.

 

The grant required match funding, a hurdle overcome by Assemblymember Adam C. Gray’s work to get a million dollars for VOLT Institute and MJC allocated in the 2018-19 California State Budget. Of making the project a priority Gray said, “We have a significant shortage of workers with the real skills necessary to get these good-paying jobs. We are encouraged that VOLT and MJC were able to use this state money to assemble a total of $2 million from federal and state grants to train an additional 200 students annually by expanding its certified industrial maintenance program and the industrial electronics, manufacturing, and machine program.”

 

Gray is not the only legislator associated with support for the project. Congressman Josh Harder has made his support for technical training and VOLT Institute in particular known since taking office, attending several of the school’s events and calling training in key areas a matter of statewide importance. “This is huge news – we’ve got all these talented people in the Valley who want good-paying jobs close to home, but they don’t always have the skills or experience they need to fill them,” said Representative Harder. “VOLT has already proven they can step in to fix this problem, and now they’re going to have even more capacity to get people prepped and into a good career. It’s good for businesses looking to hire, it’s great for workers, and it’s one more way we can signal to employers outside of our area that we have a highly-skilled workforce ready to get the job done.”

 

VOLT Institute is a partnership between Opportunity Stanislaus, the county’s economic development organization that is committed to improving economic vitality in the region, and SCOE. Opportunity Stanislaus, SCOE, and Modesto Junior College have collaborated for the last year in a combined effort to build the best collaborative advanced manufacturing training program in California. This new grant will help strengthen the joint effort. SCOE Superintendent Scott Kuykendall was ecstatic upon hearing the news of the grant award. “We are excited to add to VOLT Institute these exciting new programs,” remarked Kuykendall. “The Tom Changnon Education Center is fast becoming a center of excellence for vocational training.”

 

EDA grants are awarded through a competitive process based upon the application’s merit, the applicant’s eligibility, and the availability of funds. Because of the matching requirements and arduous application, the region has only ever received one such award of just over $140,000, allotted in 2010 to the City of Riverbank. But White hopes the award is the first of many for the county’s workforce development efforts. “We are committed to providing high-quality jobs and that starts with an emphasis on top-notch training. Enthusiasm and ideas for continuous improvement are not in short supply and this encourages us that funding is not either.” Warren Kirk, CEO of Doctors Medical Center and Chairman of the Board for Opportunity Stanislaus added, “This federal grant is a great example of what our region can accomplish when we work together in support of economic development.”

Monday, September 30, 2019

Assemblymembers Flora and Gray Announce Funding

for Boys & Girls Clubs of Stanislaus and Merced Counties

 

SACRAMENTO – The Governor has signed a budget bill containing $500,000 each for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Stanislaus and Merced Counties. Assemblymembers Heath Flora and Adam Gray together represent the two counties in the State Legislature, and worked to secure the funding.

“The Boys & Girls Clubs came to us earlier this year with an urgent plea to help them keep their doors open for the 1,675 underserved youth they serve in our area,” said Assemblymember Flora. “After school programs have a positive impact on the community that we were in danger of losing.”

Assemblymembers Flora and Gray represent different sides of the political aisle, but they came together in a bipartisan fashion to help the Central Valley’s underserved and at-risk youth.

“This funding came at a crucial time for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Stanislaus and Merced,” said Assemblymember Gray. “Heath and I would like to thank the Governor for approving our budget request and keeping these kids enrolled in programs that help insure their future success.”

Boys & Girls Clubs Organizations throughout the country provide high-quality after school youth development, prevention and academic enrichment programs delivered by trained adult professional staff mentors in a safe and secure facility in geographic areas of greatest need where families cannot afford other services. Members receive proven programs which support them to graduate from high school ready for college, trade school, military or the job market.

“It is with the deepest gratitude that we thank Assemblymembers Flora and Gray for working so closely with us and the Governor to get this funding secured that will allow us to continue to provide quality programs for the youth we serve,” said Janine McClanahan, Board Chair of the Boys & Girls Club of Stanislaus County.

“This funding will enable us to serve more kids more often in a safe environment, providing quality youth development programs for the youth of Merced County. It means the world to us and the kids!” added Michelle W. Allison, Board Chair of the Boys & Girls Club of Merced County.

Friday, September 13, 2019
Tuesday, September 10, 2019

It is unfair to Valley for state not to count hydroelectric power as renewable energy

BY ASSEMBLYMEMBER ADAM GRAY

Looking for fairness? Better consult a map if you’re in California.

For many living along the coast, it’s considered “fair” to make electricity more expensive in the name of fighting climate change. For people who rarely need an air conditioner, the added expense is a small sacrifice. For those living inland, where temperatures top 100 degrees eight, nine or even 30 days a year, that sacrifice is far greater.

In several Bay Area communities, where median incomes are double to nearly triple those found in adjacent Valley counties, fat incentives to purchase a $75,000 electric car seem justifiable. But in the northern San Joaquin Valley, where 85,000 people commute to the Bay Area every day, such incentives would have to quadruple to make electric cars affordable.

If your political dreams are tied to giant solar farms, you’ll need a place to sell that new electricity. No problem, just require people to use only energy you’ve anointed as “renewable.” That some of California’s most vulnerable populations live and work in the much-hotter Central Valley and will have to pay far more for that power is, well, their problem.

Such moral accommodations are not right, justifiable or equitable.

Senate Bill 100, enacted in 2018, requires that California’s public utilities switch entirely to renewable energy by 2045. Until 2030, hydropower generated at dozens of existing large-scale facilities won’t count as renewable. Why would anyone remove safe, reliable and carbon-free power from the environmental scorecard?

It’s simple economics. Large-scale hydro produces about 12 percent of California’s energy each year. Because it is generated at existing dams, the cost to create hydropower is low. The only way to make solar and wind power more attractive than hydro is to arbitrarily put large-scale hydro off limits as “non-renewable.” That forces utility providers who own dams to replace their suddenly “non-renewable” hydro with mostly higher-priced solar and wind.

That extra cost will be passed along to customers.

The heaviest burden falls on places like Modesto, Merced and Turlock, where the weather is hotter and where irrigation districts have invested millions to create clean hydropower. The districts will have to buy solar or wind power to replace their “non-renewable” hydro. Worse, when they sell their suddenly excess hydropower, it will be worth less because it’s not “renewable.”

Over the next decade, those increased costs will amount to tens of millions of dollars to Valley ratepayers.

The same dynamic will hit the entire state. San Francisco, Sacramento, Oakland and Los Angeles all produce hydropower that won’t count, and all of it will have to be replaced. The state itself produces 2.3 million megawatts that can’t be counted. Pacific Gas & Electric has 26 hydro facilities that don’t qualify.

Some insist this is a necessary sacrifice to save the planet. That’s not true.

If every electron consumed in California was generated at a hydropower plant, we’d have the cleanest, least-polluting, most reliable power supply in the world. A study from the University of Stuttgart, Germany, showed hydropower is the cleanest power available; solar ranks fourth.

Refusing to recognize hydro as renewable won’t do a darned thing to save the planet. It won’t cut carbon emissions, make California’s air cleaner or our electrical grid more reliable. But it will push up prices.

The environmental movement, which pushed for SB 100, simply ignores its own hypocrisy. The Sierra Club applauded wildly when the state of Washington passed a clean-energy bill similar — but not identical — to California’s this year. In Washington, the state’s vast hydropower supplies are counted as clean and renewable.

I have asked the Assembly to put the question of hydropower’s status as renewable energy on the ballot and let voters decide how to count it. Knowing that’s a long shot, we’re also taking steps to go directly to voters.

The horrifying effects of climate change are clear. No one wants to turn back the clock and see power plants spewing fossil-fuel emissions. We’ll be delighted when California is using 100 percent renewable energy — including hydro.

Until that time comes, we shouldn’t be asked to waste our hydropower or pay higher prices for electricity that is no cleaner than what we’re already producing at dams up and down the state.

It’s not just about fighting climate change. It’s also about fighting for fairness. The poorest people in California shouldn’t have to pay more so that others can profit.