Braden Gunem / Flickr CC

Some traffic courts in California have been charging ticketed drivers fees before allowing their cases to go to trial. But a new rule approved Monday by the state Judicial Council will put an end to that practice.

In at least eight California counties, ticketed drivers can be required to pay their traffic fines before their cases are allowed to go to trial. The Judicial Council unanimously approved a rule that prohibits that practice.

Judge Harry Hull serves on the council. He says people were essentially paying to see a judge.

Despite many items up for consideration, controversy will likely remain limited as the Butte County Board of Supervisors considers a 646-page draft budget, procuring a sheriff’s office helicopter to replace Vietnam War-era equipment and various other items.

The budget, expected to end up in the neighborhood of $18.5 million, will be discussed in detail at an upcoming hearing later this month The board will hear comments from the public and may make some revisions to the document at its June 23 hearing.

There has been no decision yet by a small claims judge who heard a case this week between a former mayor of Redding and the director of the Northern California Veterans Museum over funds from a gun show, which both sides say they were entitled to.

Penny Meyer / Flickr, Creative Commons

A state Senate bill would change the way fishing licenses are sold in California. Sen. Tom Berryhill of Twain Hart says the bill would change the length of a license from a 12-month calendar period to a consecutive 12-month period, much like a driver’s license. The bill would also lower the fee for 16- and 17-year-old anglers, making it easier for them to afford. 

“How many of us wait at least until spring or you might wait until summer so you’re buying back to back, and what happens is nobody buys anything,  or you just don’t fish at all,” Berryhill said.

Butte County District Attorney's Office

A man and woman involved in a fatal brawl in downtown Chico last summer were sentenced to lengthy prison terms Wednesday, Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey announced.

Joshua Epstein, 30, and Stephanie Vogel, 24 were sentenced to 11 and three years, respectively.

The victim, 45-year-old Randall Sexton, died after being stabbed in the chest and bludgeoned repeatedly with a skateboard during a fight with Epstein and Vogel. All three were described as homeless.

A Mexican citizen, busted last year while tending an illicit pot farm inside the Mendocino National Forest, was sentenced Thursday to five years in federal prison, prosecutors said.

Ivan Villafana, 25, was also ordered to pay $14,000 in fines. Authorities say the site, in the Ice Springs area in Glenn County, was marked by felled trees, pesticides, herbicides and tubes delivering water from a nearby stream.

Villafana was armed with a revolver when he was arrested. 

Both Chico and Red Bluff have new police chiefs. Mike O’Brien was sworn in at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting in Chico. He’s been with the department for 23 years, most recently as captain. He is a graduate of Chico State and worked for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office before returning to Chico in 1992.

Police arrested a nude transient on charges of indecent exposure and resisting arrest after he blocked traffic on a busy Chico Monday evening.

When police arrived at the scene, Park Avenue at 22nd Street at about 6:40 p.m., the man was lying naked across the roadway. The man, Robert Leavel, a local transient, appeared to be under the influence, police said.

A struggle ensued leaving Leavel with cuts and abrasions and an officer with a dislocated shoulder. 

Derek Curry / Flickr, via Wikimedia Creative Commons

Parks and recreation figured high on the list at Tuesday night’s Chico City Council meeting where conditions were lamented, while consideration was also given, in the abstract at least, to substantially increasing the size of Bidwell Park.

Without more money and a restored staff, complaints about shuttered access gates, locked restrooms and closed parking lots aren’t going away. Dan Efseaff, the city’s park and natural resources manager, got an earful, but noted that there are limits to what his three-person crew can accomplish.

State Senate Approves Higher Minimum Wage

Jun 2, 2015
Thomas Hawk / Flickr, Creative Commons

The California Senate has approved an increase in the state’s minimum wage. The bill by Democratic Sen. Mark Leno would increase the minimum wage to $11 an hour by next January, and to $13 an hour by July 2017. Beginning in 2019 it would include an escalator to keep the minimum wage in line with inflation.

Leno says a higher wage will spur more economic activity and help address California’s high poverty rate.

“It is time that we make it illegal to pay sub-poverty wages in California,” he said.