Disability Rights Advocates Call for Budget Increase

Disability rights advocates march to the State Capitol in Sacramento on May 18, 2015, urging lawmakers to increase funding for services and programs for individuals with developmental disabilities.
| Photo: Courtesy The Lanterman Coalition

Disability rights advocates and organizations marched to the State Capitol on Monday to urge California lawmakers to increase the budget for developmental disabilities programs. A 10 percent increase, they said, is a critical need, but only a step in much needed reform after years of cutbacks.

California currently has 21 nonprofit regional centers, serving approximately 280,000 people with developmental disabilities, which includes cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and autism, all which begin before an individual is 18 years old. The regional centers were born out of the Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Services Act, which was implemented in 1969, ensuring people with developmental disabilities would be granted the support and equal services they need to live as independently as possible.

Since the 2007 recession, funding for California's Developmental Services System has significantly decreased as caseloads went up.

California's End of Life Option Act Moves Forward

Many patient rights organizations are optimistic that the End of Life Option Act, SB 128, is one step closer to becoming law this legislative session after passing hurdles in the State Senate's Health, Judiciary, and Appropriations committees.

The bill was last placed in a "suspense file" to determine the cost impact the bill would have on the state's general fund. If approved, the bill is expected to reach the Senate floor the first week of June.

Is Public Policy Turning our Cities into Farms, or Letting Them Go Fallow?

This is part of a series of multimedia stories curated through a collaboration between Earthworks Farm and KCETLink. Watch a segment from KCET's "SoCal Connected" and visit the project hub for more information.

In Southern California's endless sprawl of cities, suburbs, and exurbs, it's easy to forget: This was once prime territory for agriculture. Leaving aside water (that would be a separate discussion) the region is ideal -- Mediterranean climate, 12-month growing season, virtually endless space.

It's also easy to forget: plenty of people want to take advantage of those factors to grow herbs, vegetables, and fruit, or keep chickens and goats to sustain their families, and maybe make a profit. Despite that, and despite the region's history as an agricultural powerhouse -- Orange County is not named for colorful sunsets, after all -- piling up a fork with homegrown food is a challenge. Farming doesn't exactly flourish in our cities, certainly not as it did during the days of victory gardens. And it surely doesn't flourish to the extent that urban agriculture advocates and entrepreneurs would like.

And not for lack of interest. Plenty of Southern Californians want to cultivate their backyards and parkway strips, partake in animal husbandry, bake and can in their home kitchens. They would like their children to eat local food in schools and to grow food themselves on campus. California even has an office within the agricultural department called Farm to Fork.

So what stands in the way?

Artificial Turf Regulation Based on Industry-Supplied Data, Alleges Group

Crumb rubber mixed in with artificial grass at a public park in Los Angeles. | Photo: Zach Behrens/KCET

An environmental whistleblower group is accusing a federal regulatory agency for relying on data from the artificial turf industry to make decisions about the safety of its products.

The findings from the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility come just months after it filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. PEER released documents, PowerPoint presentations, and email correspondences that they say show how the federal agency has handled and reacted to questions concerning artificial turf, specifically crumb rubber made from recycled tires, which are said to carry chemicals that can harm children.

"These records depict a consumer watchdog which has learned to play dead too well," said PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch in a statement. "While industry gets unfettered access, consumer complaints about excess lead get the run-around before they are forgotten altogether."

Lawmakers Again Give Nod to Aid in Dying Bill

California's proposed aid in dying bill, SB 128, the End of Life Option Act, received yet another nod from lawmakers on Tuesday when it passed the Senate Judiciary Committee.
| Photo: Courtesy of U.S. Navy

This story has been published in tandem with a segment for KCET's award-winning TV show "SoCal Connected." Watch it here now.

California's proposed aid in dying bill, SB 128, the End of Life Option Act, received yet another nod from lawmakers on Tuesday when it passed the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Last month, the Senate Health Committee approved the measure, which would allow terminally ill patients to choose a life-ending prescription.

"We believe that this voluntary option is a compassionate addition to the existing continuum of care that may be offered by modern medicine at the end of life," said Lois Wolk (D-Davis), one of the bill's co-authors. "After the successful passage in the Senate Judiciary Committee today, we are one step closer to ensuring that this fundamental right is protected for those in California who are coping with end-of-life issues."

FasTrak Lanes Take a Toll on Freeway Speeds

Los Angeles' FasTrak freeway lanes have become less so -- and they might get pricier.
| Photo: Courtesy of Metropolitan Transit Authority

A segment for KCET's award-winning TV show "SoCal Connected" has been produced in tandem with this story. Watch it here now.

Los Angeles' FasTrak freeway lanes have become less so -- and they might get pricier.

Toll lanes on the 110 Freeway have slowed so much that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is closing them to solo drivers for up to 30 minutes during morning rush hour. That recent tweak is part of Metro's rejiggering of a few variables to speed things up. If closing the lanes down to solo drivers, who make up one third of toll lane cars, doesn't work, the agency will consider increasing the per-mile toll limit, probably in the fall, according to Metro spokesman Rick Jager.

"They want an opportunity to tweak the system and see if they can't rectify it," Jager said.

Toll prices currently vary from $.25 to $1.40 per mile, depending on the heaviness of traffic. Commuters pay an average of $9.01 to travel the 11 miles of toll lanes on the 110 Freeway, and $7.30 to drive the 14 miles of toll lanes on the 10 Freeway, according to Metro.

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