Richard Gonzales

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Last week, we were shivering in depths of the polar vortex. Now another sign that Mother Nature is in charge. This time it's California, where right now it should be rainy season. Instead, there's growing alarm over a persistent lack of rain. The state is suffering its third consecutive dry year.

And as NPR's Richard Gonzales reports, there are calls for the governor to officially declare a drought.

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Today, California Governor Jerry Brown announced that the state's healthier finances will mean billions of dollars of new spending. The winners in the governor's proposed record budget include schools and welfare. He also wants millions spent on maintaining roads and parks.

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As we approach the end of 2013, we've been looking at numbers that tell the story of this year in different ways. Today's number: 38. That's the percentage of Americans who live in a state where same-sex marriage is now legal. Supporters of same-sex marriage say that percentage is likely to grow dramatically in just a few more years. NPR's Richard Gonzalez reports.

RICHARD GONZALEZ, BYLINE: When the history of the legal and political battle over same-sex marriage is written, this will likely go down as the banner year.

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California, according to recent budget numbers, is slowly recovering from its years of multi-billion dollar budget deficits. The state is on track to turn a $2.5 billion budget surplus at the end of the current fiscal year. But that's general fund money. It does not address another gaping deficit. The state owes almost $10 billion to the federal government for money spent on unemployment benefits.

NPR's Richard Gonzales reports.

San Francisco has long been a desirable place to live — and that's even more true today as the city is basking in the glow of another tech boom. But the influx of new money and new residents is putting a strain on the city's housing market.

The city has the highest median rent in the nation, and evictions of longtime residents are skyrocketing.

Ground zero for San Francisco's eviction crisis is the Inner Mission District. Until recently, this edgy neighborhood was home to a mix of working-class Latinos, artists and activists.

The city of Oakland, Calif., is in the middle of a robbery epidemic. In response, some residents in several Oakland neighborhoods are taking matters into their own hands, hiring private security companies to patrol their neighborhoods.

Overall, robberies in Oakland are up 24 percent over the past year, with armed robberies up 45 percent. Since the recession dried up local tax revenues, the Oakland Police Department has been hamstrung by the loss of more than 200 officers and can't respond to all the calls it receives for help.

This story is part of an ongoing project on commuting in America.

What's known as the "last mile" of a commute can be the Holy Grail for many city transportation planners. How do you get people from their major mode of transportation – like a train station – to their final destination?

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The subject of affordability in American cities came up in a referendum yesterday in San Francisco. Voters rejected measures that would have given a green light to a major luxury condo development. The city is enjoying a construction boom. And some San Franciscans saw this vote as a fight over the kind of city they want.

Here's NPR's Richard Gonzales.

Sonoma County, Calif., is probably best known for its good wine, green sensibilities and otherwise healthy and peaceful living. But that peace was shattered last week when a county sheriff's deputy shot and killed a young teenager carrying a toy gun.

New Mexico law doesn't explicitly ban or approve same-sex marriage. There were a spate of lawsuits seeking to clarify the issue, but they were tied up in the courts. Then in August, the clerk of Dona Ana County, Lynn Ellins, a long-time supporter of same-sex marriage, consulted his staff.

"And we all agreed that it was about time to bring this thing to a head, and if we did nothing, the cases would languish in the district court if we did not move to issue these licenses and try and put the ball in play," Ellins says.

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In other immigration news, California Governor Jerry Brown has signed into law a measure that makes it harder for federal immigration officials to detain people believed to be in this country illegally. The new state law, called the Trust Act, restricts local police from holding undocumented immigrants without serious criminal records and turning them over to immigration authorities. NPR's Richard Gonzales reports.

Oracle Team USA completed a remarkable comeback to win the America's Cup regatta, winning eight straight races. The American team, backed by Silicon Valley billionaire Larry Ellison, beat Emirates Team New Zealand. Just a few days ago, the American team trailed the Kiwis, and were on the brink of being eliminated from the competition.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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San Francisco's Bay Bridge is open again, after being closed over the weekend to allow the last phase of a retrofitting project to finish up. While commuters are celebrating the bridge's return, the project was a lesson in cost overruns and delays.

In California, officials are ramping up a unique program that identifies and seizes guns from people who are prohibited from keeping them. Under state law, a legally registered gun owner loses the right to own a firearm when he or she is convicted of a crime or becomes mentally ill.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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It's not often that Oakland, Calif., hosts a movie opening. But there is plenty of anticipation for Fruitvale Station.

The film is about the life and death of Oscar Grant, a young black man who was fatally shot in the back by a white transit police officer in the early morning hours of New Year's Day in 2009.

Grant was killed by Officer Johannes Mehserle, who claimed to have been reaching for his Taser, not his handgun. Mehserle was tried and convicted of involuntary manslaughter and served 11 months of a two-year term.

More details are emerging about the crash of Asiana flight 214 at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday that killed two people. The Boeing 777 jet nearly stalled on its approach to land, and the flight crew tried to take corrective action just seconds before it hit the ground. There's also word the pilot, while having extensive flying experience, had only 43 hours on the 777.

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For two days now, about 400,000 commuters in the San Francisco Bay Area have had to find an alternate way to get around. Workers for the area's rail system are on strike. The dispute at Bay Area Rapid Transit, or BART, is over pay, benefit and safety issues. Employees walked off the job early Monday morning as their contract expired. For now, NPR's Richard Gonzales reports that most travelers are taking the disruption in stride.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

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I'm Audie Cornish. And it's time now for All Tech Considered.

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CORNISH: People in the tech world are buzzing over the revelations of massive NSA data gathering, and the tech industry appears to be deeply involved. The leaked documents say that some of the biggest names, Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft have assisted in NSA surveillance.

In most states, the power to draw lines for political districts rests with legislators. In recent years, California voters have tried to make the process less political by taking it out of lawmakers' hands. But not everyone is happy with how things are turning out.

To understand redistricting in California, consider this: Over a 10-year period beginning in 2000, there were 255 congressional races, and only one seat — that's right, one seat — changed parties.

California Gov. Jerry Brown is locked in a legal battle over control of his state's prison system. Two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling ordering the state to drastically reduce its prisoner population. Brown claims the state has made substantial progress, but the governor has stopped short of complying fully with the court order.

Ever since the Newtown, Ct., school shooting, there's been a raging debate over how to keep America's schoolchildren safe. National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre proposed stationing an armed guard in every school in the country. Critics said that idea was impractical and would be too expensive to carry out.

But many schools and school districts already have armed police officers. Since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, about one-third of the schools in the U.S. have added some kind of armed security, according to federal data.

Karl Rove had a sharp message to California's Republican Party Saturday. He implored party leaders to "get up off the mat" and work to revitalize the state GOP. Republicans hold no statewide offices in California and have given up a supermajority to Democrats in the state legislature.

The city of Oakland, Calif., is taking a major step toward helping to bring many of its residents, especially illegal immigrants, out of the shadows.

It will issue a municipal identification card to anyone who can prove residency.

Oakland isn't the only city to issue such ID cards to illegal immigrants. New Haven, Conn., and San Francisco already do that.

The Oakland card, however, has a unique feature — it doubles as a debit card.

Oakland, Calif., is among the U.S. cities that's seen an increase in violence over the last year. The uptick in crime comes as the police department is also under pressure from a federal court to reform its ways.

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Here's something we haven't bee able to report for a while: State budgets are looking better. Thanks to an improving economy, spending cuts and some tax increases, more than 33 states and the District of Columbia report their financial condition is stabilizing. Even California, the poster child for the budget mess, is looking OK, at least in the short run.

Here's NPR's Richard Gonzales.

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