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Nils Schlebusch 

This undated photo provided by Tim Steele shows a container home designed and built by Steele House along with Bigprototype in Livingston Manor, N.Y. (Nils Schlebusch/Tim Steele via AP)

Lemoore makes changes with several employee associations

LEMOORE — The Lemoore City Council met Tuesday and approved tentative agreements with several associations, including salary and health benefit increases.

On the council’s agenda were memorandums of understanding with the Lemoore General Association of Service Employees Unit, the Lemoore Police Officers Association and the Lemoore Police Sergeants Association.

Assistant City manager Michelle Speer outlined the proposed changes that City staff worked on with the associations for Council.

First up was the Service Employees Unit, which proposed the following changes:

  • 8 percent salary increase
  • Change from monthly to bi-weekly pay
  • Uniform allowance increases and boot allowance increase
  • Up to $1,350 per month for health benefits paid for by the City
  • Home buyer’s assistance up to $10,000

All the changes for the Service Employees Unit are estimated to cost the City about $436,700.

Next up were the Police Officers Association and Police Sergeants Association, which both proposed the following changes:

  • 8 percent salary increase
  • Change from monthly to bi-weekly pay
  • Problem Oriented Police officers will receive premium pay equal to 2.5 percent of their base pay for specific assignments
  • The uniform allowance will increase to $1,200, to be paid once a year in January
  • Up to $1,350 per month for health benefits paid for by the City
  • One holiday and two half-day holidays will be added as paid holidays
  • Home buyer’s assistance up to $15,000

All the changes for the Police Officers Association are estimated to cost the City about $420,000 and changes for the Police Sergeants Association are estimated to cost about $55,000.

Lastly was a discussion about changes for unrepresented employees, which Speer said are not represented by a bargaining unit, including mid- and executive-level managers.

Changes proposed for unrepresented employees included:

  • 8 percent salary increase
  • Up to $1,350 per month for health benefits paid for by the City
  • Increase in administrative leave
  • Home buyer’s assistance up to $10,000

Council members were receptive to the changes and voted unanimously to approve all the agreements with the various associations and employees.

Speer said the agreements will start Jan. 1, 2018, and end June 30, 2020.

Rally for DACA in Hanford

HANFORD — Marco Reyes, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) student, stood in front of Congressman David Valadao’s (R-Hanford) office Thursday and read a letter addressed to the congressman aloud.

“[My family] came to America for a better home, and you want to take that away from me?,” Reyes asked Valadao aloud. The congressman was not at his Hanford office at the time.

Thursday was considered the National Day of Action for the DREAM Act across the country. Thousands of students flooded both Sacramento and the Senate building in Washington, D.C.

Around 30 people gathered in front of Valadao’s office on Irwin Street in Hanford as well to advocate for DACA and the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act.

Pedro Elias, the director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, said thousands of DACA students are carrying a weight around on their shoulders because they don’t know what their fate is.

“They’re going to school, they’re working, they’re being productive citizens,” Elias said. “And yet, they’re still waiting for a decision.”

Daniel Penaloza, the Central Valley organizer for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, challenged Valadao to stand up for immigrant students.

“We need you [Valadao] to work tirelessly with your colleagues and members of Congress to ensure the passage of the DREAM Act,” Penaloza said, adding the future of the immigrant youth are in jeopardy.

Reyes implored Valadao to stand up for DACA students and the DREAM Act because he said immigrants are no different than other citizens.

“Just because I’m an immigrant doesn’t make me less than you,” Reyes said. “It just means I don’t have the rights you are given so freely.”

Reyes said many of the immigrant students come from hardworking families and are thankful to get the opportunity to get an education, a job, and help their communities.

“Last I checked, people live here, people pay rent, people actually buy stuff and help keep this economy going,” Reyes said of immigrants. “Don’t make us your problem, make us your solution. We have something greater to offer. Don’t take us for granted.”

The rally also included speeches from representatives of Health Access California and Mi Familia Vota.

Senate GOP tax bill would delay corporate cut, undo deductions

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans revealed the details of their sweeping tax legislation Thursday, including a one-year delay in plans for a major corporate tax cut despite strident opposition from the White House and others in their own party. Their bill would leave the prized mortgage interest deduction untouched for homeowners in a concession to the powerful real estate lobby but would ignore a House compromise on the hot-button issue of state and local tax deductions.

On the other side of the Capitol, the House Ways and Means Committee approved its own version of the legislation on a party-line 24-16 vote, amid intense political pressure on the GOP to push forward on the first major rewrite of the U.S. tax code in three decades. It's President Donald Trump's top priority and a goal many Republicans believe has grown even more urgent in the wake of election losses on Tuesday that displayed an energized Democratic electorate.

Yet as the Senate Finance Committee unveiled its bill, a few stark differences emerged with the version approved by the House tax-writing committee, underscoring the challenges ahead in getting both chambers to agree on the complex and far-reaching legislation that would affect nearly every American.

The Senate measure fails to repeal the estate tax, though it doubles the size of estates exempted from the tax. It makes couples earning up to $1 million eligible for a $1,650 per-child tax credit. It creates a new 38.5 percent tax bracket for couples earning more than $1 million and individuals making more than $500,000 per year. And it takes a different approach to cutting taxes for businesses not organized as corporations that is less generous but applies to more businesses.

Democrats are strongly opposed to the GOP rewrite, so the Republicans must find agreement among themselves to have any hope of passage.

The Senate bill would fully repeal the state and local deduction claimed by many taxpayers, an idea that has drawn vigorous opposition from House Republicans in New York and New Jersey and resulted in a compromise in the House version of the bill that would allow property taxes to be deducted up to $10,000.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told The Associated Press that the Senate's total-repeal approach would face tough sledding in his chamber. As for the hard-fought compromise, he said, "I think it'd be difficult not to have it in the final bill."

On the other hand, the House bill would lower the cap on the mortgage interest deduction, an idea that caused intense blowback from the real estate lobby, but the Senate tax measure would leave it unchanged. That means homebuyers would continue to be able to deduct interest payments on loans of up to $1 million as permitted under current law; the House bill would reduce the limit to $500,000 for new home purchases.

The feverish efforts by Republicans in both chambers are aimed at fulfilling a self-imposed deadline to get legislation out of the House and Senate before Thanksgiving so the period between then and Christmas can be devoted to reconciling the two versions.

In one provision sure to cause a major dispute, the Senate measure includes a one-year delay in lowering the corporate tax rate, which is to be cut from 35 percent to 20 percent. Delaying that reduction would lower the cost of the bill to the Treasury, but the delay is opposed by the White House and some Senate Republicans.

"The president would like this to go into effect right away," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday on Fox Business Network.

Other obstacles remain, among them a band of deficit hawks in the Senate who are unhappy about the $1.5 trillion the legislation would add to the national debt over the coming decade.

The House and Senate bills are broadly similar in their outlines. Both would drastically reduce the corporate tax rate and also lower rates for individuals, while eliminating deductions claimed by many people.

The House version would collapse the current seven tax brackets into four, while the Senate would retain seven. The House bill would entirely eliminate the estate tax, while the Senate version would retain it while doubling the exemption level. Both versions would retain an adoption tax credit that had initially been eliminated in the House bill, but that adoption advocates fought to restore.

Both would increase a child tax credit, though not to levels sought by Sens. Marco Rubio and others, an indication of how individual provisions will need to be negotiated with one lawmaker after another in the weeks to come. House Republicans appear on track to pass their version of the bill next week, but in the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has a slim 52-48 majority that has proven difficult to corral.

Democrats are angrily opposed to the GOP rewrite, arguing it's a giveaway to the rich and corporate America. Republicans contend that the tax reductions will help the middle class, even though some independent analyses have found that the wealthy and corporations benefit disproportionately.

The tax bill must deepen federal deficits by no more than $1.5 trillion over the coming decade. If Republicans don't meet that, the measure would be vulnerable to a bill-killing Senate filibuster by Democrats that GOP senators lack the votes to block. It also cannot add to red ink beyond the first 10 years without facing the same fate.

Two arrested after semi-automatic rifle found in car

LEMOORE — A man and woman were arrested Thursday after Lemoore officers found a semi-automatic rifle in the backseat of their car during a traffic stop, police said.

The department said an officer made a traffic stop on a vehicle that was swerving and crossing over the median in the area of South Lemoore Avenue and Highway 198.

Police said the vehicle was being driven by 23-year-old Vanessa Garcia from Lemoore while 29-year-old Vernon Lewis from Lemoore was in the passenger seat.

While speaking to Garcia and Lewis during the stop, officials said officers saw a black .308 caliber semi-automatic rifle in plain view on the back seat. They said the semi-automatic rifle had a high capacity magazine affixed to it.

Because Lewis is a convicted felon restricted from being in possession of a firearm or ammunition, police said they arrested and transported him to Kings County Jail.

While inside Kings County Jail, authorities said Lewis was found to have brought in cocaine and also had a .308 caliber bullet in his possession.

Authorities said Lewis was booked on suspicion of being a felon in possession of a firearm, being a felon in possession of ammunition, possession of a high-capacity magazine and bringing a controlled substance into a jail facility. His bail was set at $55,000.

Police said Garcia was arrested and booked on suspicion of driving under the influence of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. Her bail was set at $10,000.