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E-bike sales on the rise | Californians want farmworker protections | Four planets in view this month

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The latest North State and California news on our airwaves for Friday, April 8.

E-bike popularity bolstered amid pandemic, rising gas prices

Electric bike sales have grown since they were first introduced in the late '90s, but the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent onset of high gas prices have only boosted their popularity.

Jonathan Medina is the buying manager for a bicycle shop in downtown Chico. He said that battery-powered bikes are particularly attractive to people who might not be suited to traditional bikes.

“It makes riding a bike much more approachable for people who thought they couldn’t ride a bike, because of a disability, age, or their fitness level,” Medina said.

Their speed 20 to 28 mph is also attractive to commuters. However, those looking to offset gas costs will find that e-bikes are pricey upfront. The average range is $1,500 to $2,000, but they can cost several thousand dollars more.

Industry market forecasters project an accelerating sales curve over the next five years. A bill pending in Congress would provide a 30% tax rebate for the purchase of e-bikes and the California legislature is also considering incentives.

— Ken Devol, NSPR

Poll shows Californians support more protections for farmworkers during wildfires

When wildfire threatens crops in California, farmworkers can be called upon to help protect harvests. This can mean going into dangerous situations with unsafe air conditions, even after others have already left to find safety.

A poll out this week from UC Berkeley's Institute of Governmental Studies shows more than 80% of California voters polled think that farmworkers should both get hazard pay for this work and be given safety training in their own native languages. More than 70% of voters polled think that farmworkers should receive disaster insurance coverage when conditions prevent them from working.

While support levels did vary along party lines, with Democrats showing more enthusiasm for these measures than Republicans, it was generally high across the state. That includes even more conservative regions like the central and Sacramento valleys. Support did not vary much based on race or education levels.

— Mary Franklin Harvin (KQED), The California Report

Law enforcement commission tasked with badge-revocation criteria

The California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) which has set rules of conduct for law enforcement in the state since 1959 held a special meeting Thursday to work on defining what kind of police misconduct is serious enough to revoke an officer's badge.

Last year, the state passed Senate Bill 2, which requires police officers to be certified and grants POST the power to revoke certification for serious misconduct such as dishonesty, abuse of power and sexual assault.

The commission is tasked with defining the specific criteria for decertification. It is also in the process of hiring for over 120 positions and a new unit that will be dedicated to certification and accountability. POST has until January of next year to implement the new law.

— Sukey Lewis (KQED), The California Report

Grocery chain with North State locations penalized for price gouging

California State Attorney General Rob Bonta announced this week that the grocery store chain Smart & Final — which operates at least two locations in the North State — has agreed to pay $175,000 in penalties to resolve claims that the grocer engaged in price gouging at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Between March and June of 2020, Smart & Final, which operates more than 250 stores throughout the West, they illegally increased the price of four organic and cage-free egg products beyond what was allowable during a state of emergency," Bonta said.

Bonta said an investigation found the grocer sold more than 100,000 cartons of eggs that were marked up by more than 10%.

— CapRadio Staff

North State skywatchers can view four planets this month

Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter can all be seen in the southeast this month, but skywatchers will need a clear view of the eastern horizon away from artificial lights. The planets will be visible starting at around 5 a.m.

On April 20, the four planets will align diagonally. At the very end of the month, Venus and Jupiter will be 0.45 degrees apart, which is less than the tip of a finger held out at arm's length.

— Dave Schlom, NSPR 

Stories from NPR partner stations are edited by NSPR Staff for digital presentation and credited as requested.

In other news

  • LaMalfa votes to support Ukraine allies: “In the wake of increasing violence against Ukrainian civilians by invading Russian forces, Congressman Doug LaMalfa voted in support of several pieces of legislation that reaffirm the United States’ support of our ally, Ukraine.” — Lassen County Times
  • Corning outbuildings destroyed in fire: “A fire Wednesday afternoon destroyed two outbuildings in south Corning. Cal Fire crews were dispatched just before 5 p.m. Wednesday to the area of Columbia and Viola avenues. They contained the fire around 6 p.m., but it destroyed two outbuildings.” — Red Bluff Daily News

In case you missed it

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Sarah is an award-winning reporter, producer and editor. She’s worked at North State Public Radio for six years and was previously the station’s News Director before leaving to study at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.
A graduate of California State University, Chico, Andre Byik is an award-winning journalist who has reported in Northern California since 2012. He joined North State Public Radio in 2020, following roles at the Chico Enterprise-Record and Chico News & Review.
Angel Huracha has been a part of the journalism field since 2006 and has covered a range of topics. He is a graduate of Chico State with a Bachelor's degree in news-editorial and public relations with a minor in English.
Adia White is a broadcast journalist and producer with nearly 10 years of experience. Her work has appeared on WNYC, This American Life, Capital Public Radio and other local and national programs. She started at North State Public Radio as a freelance reporter in 2017 before leaving for a stint at Northern California Public Media in Santa Rosa.