Latest Northern California news, sports, business and entertainment


Union approves new contract with BART

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Bay Area Rapid Transit workers' largest union ratified its contract with the agency yesterday, closing eight months of negotiations that resulted in two strikes that snarled traffic throughout the region.

Service Employees International Union spokeswoman Cecille Isidro said in a statement yesterday that 87 percent of SEIU members had voted to approve the contract, which will include employee raises and measures to improve safety.

The measures include increased lighting in tunnels and stations, committees to begin the process of reopening station bathrooms, and an electronic tracking system to flag unresolved safety hazards.

The new contract drops a medical leave provision, whose validity the board disputed and which would have provided up to six weeks of paid family medical leave to union workers.


Limits placed on community college fee waivers

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The governing board that sets policies for California's 112 community colleges has approved new eligibility requirements for a popular financial aid program.

The Board of Governors for the state community college system yesterday adopted regulations that for the first time establish minimum academic performance requirements for students who do not pay per-unit enrollment fees.

Under the new rules, students who do not maintain at least a C-average or complete at least half of the units they attempted during two consecutive semesters would be at risk of losing their fee waivers.

Foster youth are exempt from the policy, which takes effect in the fall of 2016 and includes an appeals process.

The board was required to adopt the restrictions as part of legislation passed in 2012 that is aimed at improving graduation and transfer rates at California's two-year colleges.


Analyst calls budget proposal 'prudent,' sensible

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California's independent Legislative Analyst's Office is giving a generally positive grade to Gov. Jerry Brown's spending proposal for the coming fiscal year.

In a report released yesterday, Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor says if the Legislature adopted Brown's plan, California would continue its fiscal progress and be on "stronger fiscal footing."

Brown's budget forecasts a $106.8 billion general fund as the state emerges from recession. The Democratic governor wants to boost K-12 funding by nearly $4 billion and spend $11 billion paying down debts.

The LAO says that approach is prudent. Taylor also recommends the state set aside some money for the $80 billion in unfunded liabilities from the state's teachers retirement fund.

Taylor says there is a "significant possibility" California will see billions more in new revenue by May.


Judges to rule on whether to delay inmate cap

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown's administration and attorneys representing inmates have failed to reach agreement on the best way to reduce overcrowding in California prisons.

That leaves it to a panel of federal judges to decide whether to give the state more time.

The judges said in a two-paragraph statement issued yesterday that they will decide within 30 days whether to stick with their current order that the state reduce the population to about 110,000 inmates.

California remains about 4,000 inmates over that level and had been given until April 18 to meet the cap. That deadline was extended slightly as both sides were given time to file written arguments, due by Jan. 28.

The state budget Brown presented last week assumed the judges will grant the state a two-year extension.


Calif. company recalls 40,000 lbs of meat

PETALUMA, Calif. (AP) — A Northern California company has recalled more than 40,000 pounds of meat products because it was produced without a full federal inspection.

The United States Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service announced yesterday that Rancho Feeding Corporation of Petaluma, Calif., recalled 41,683 pounds of meat products. The items, which were produced Jan. 8 and shipped to distribution centers and retail stores in California, include beef carcasses, 20-pound to 60-pound boxes of beef feet, oxtail, hearts, liver, cheeks, tripe and tongue. They were recalled because without the full federal inspection, they are considered unfit for human consumption.

The carcasses and boxes bear the establishment number "EST. 527" inside the U.S.D.A. mark of inspection. Each box bears the case code number "ON9O4."

There have been no reports of illnesses.