SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) - California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird and Nevada Director of Conservation and Natural Resources Bradley Cowell issued the following joint statement on a report indicating Lake Tahoe’s clarity decreased to a record-low annual average in 2017. The report released by the Tahoe Environmental Research Center at the University of California, Davis, highlighted the combination of historic drought and one of the wettest winters on record as key factors contributing to low lake clarity last year.

“According to the latest data, one of the most iconic indicators of Lake Tahoe’s health – lake clarity – registered its lowest recorded annual level in 2017. While annual clarity declines are not unusual, the record decline experienced last year warrants an in-depth review to further understand the causes and impacts, and to help ensure the 2017 decrease is an anomaly, and not a trend.

“After 20 years of significant investment to protect the clarity of Lake Tahoe, we take this development seriously. As the natural resources leads for our states, we are asking the science community to take a fresh look at factors affecting lake clarity and recommend actions to continue our success in protecting the ecological health of Lake Tahoe in a time of changing climate.”

A joint letter to the Tahoe Science Advisory Council from Secretary Laird and Director Crowell can be found here.

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SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) - With “MeToo” awareness bringing to light stories of sexual harassment and rape across communities and through generations women are becoming empowered to just say NO!

When people possess the skills of martial arts they have learned how to protect themselves from personal assault and gained the confidence to say NO and make it stick. Robinson’s Taekwondo has been teaching women safety, conflict avoidance and empowering students since 1975 with TKD techniques and self-defense skills.

Unfortunately, in Grandmaster Clint Robinson’s experience, the women seeking training in martial arts often come to the values and skills after the fact.

To empower women with knowledge, skills and confidence Robinson’s TKD is offering a 3.5 hour  Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention/SHARP Seminar specifically designed for women to increase awareness and develop practical physical techniques and strategies to counter social and sexual assault.

With women standing together to say no to harassment and sexual assault now, the skills of martial arts are one of the most important tools in reducing future “MeToo” calls for help.

RTKD S.H.A.R.P. Clinic is for women only and takes place Saturday, June 23 from

1pm-4:30pm. Registration online is required to reserve space at www.robinsonstkd.com under the Events tab.

Please join the Black Belt instructors of Robinson’s Taekwondo for a special women’s empowerment event to learn prevention psychology, predator habits, physical techniques to escape and countermeasures for sexual assault. These easy to learn, practical techniques utilize vocal and physical measures to disengage unwanted sexual attention, avert social physical advances and injure sexual predators. Striking techniques utilizing hands, legs and feet are practiced with methods of escape and evasion to seek help in this 3.5 hour event.

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Capitol Democrats Propose New Fireworks Tax

SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) - Celebrating America’s independence this Fourth of July? There’s a tax for that.

Legislative Democrats have proposed a tax increase on Fourth of July fireworks sales. The new fireworks tax will tack on another 3 percent to each fireworks purchase.

Even though the state is working with a $9 billion budget surplus this year, Legislative Democrats cannot seem to get their hands on enough taxpayer money.

“Democrats have hit Californians with a new gas tax and housing tax over the past year,” said Assemblyman Matthew Harper (R-Huntington Beach). “Now, they want a new fireworks tax too?”

The fireworks tax (SB 794) will reach deeper into consumers’ pockets and likely reduce sales for local non-profit organizations that operate most fireworks stands in the state as fundraisers. Republicans in the Assembly and Senate have united in opposition.

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TAHOE CITY, CA (MPG) - Community members can get a first look at 30 proposals for new visitor-serving projects in eastern Placer County June 12 at a special meeting of the Capital Projects Advisory Committee.

The meeting will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Northstar Community Services District board room at 900 Northstar Drive in Truckee.

Project applicants have been invited to make brief presentations about their proposals to the CAP Committee and all are welcome to attend. At their regular meeting June 28 at the Squaw Valley Public Services District board room the committee will make a formal decision on which projects to recommend to the county Board of Supervisors. Consideration of those recommendations is tentatively planned for the board’s meeting in North Lake Tahoe scheduled for July 24.

Lodging taxes collected from overnight guests in eastern Placer County have long been allocated for local, visitor-serving projects to benefit its tourism-based economy. This year, applications for this funding will first be reviewed by the new CAP Committee - a 13-member group representing broad economic and geographic interests throughout eastern Placer County.

The committee, co-chaired by the county and North Lake Tahoe Resort Association, will evaluate project proposals on how well they advance key priorities outlined in the county’s Tourism Master Plan for the region.

Last year, Placer County collected approximately $18 million in guest lodging taxes, or transient occupancy taxes. Placer has long had a practice of investing lodging taxes collected in eastern Placer County back into the communities where they’re generated. In October 2017, the Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution formalizing that approach, affirming the county’s commitment to investing 100 percent of lodging taxes generated in North Lake Tahoe to support tourism and implement the Tourism Master Plan.

Grant funding for the projects is drawn from lodging tax revenue, and is intended to help accomplish the goals of the Tourism Master Plan. Previously funded projects include the Kings Beach Commercial Core Improvement Project, the Tahoe City ice rink and many improvements to regional trails throughout eastern Placer County. Current funding priorities include trail development and wayfinding signage.

Over the past year, Placer County and the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association have stepped up efforts to engage community members and local business associations on how best to invest lodging tax revenues in local projects and services. Forming the CAP Committee was a result of strong community interest in including the broadest possible input into prioritizing projects.

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Comcast Service Problems Continue

Carmichael, CA (MPG) – Comcast services are down again today, affecting all services at Messenger Publishing Group. They were down most of the day yesterday, June 6th, which was our main deadline day for our production week.

Unfortunately, the message Comcast has for any calls coming into our office says “This number is no longer in service” – which is not true.

When trying to contact a service representative at Comcast their recorded message says they will not have representatives answer calls to try to fix this recorded message problem. Instead, they continue with the message that makes it sound like we are no longer in business – which is not true.

Comcast problems in this part of Carmichael have been historic. We realize that they are trying to upgrade their system, but we have heard from other businesses that they are experiencing problems all over the region.

If you are also having problems at your business this week with Comcast send us an email at Editor@MPG8.com. We would love to hear about it so we can cover these problems as a local news story.

We regret any inconvenience to our customers.

Paul V. Scholl, Publisher

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SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) - Taxpayers who owe tax and file their federal income tax return more than 60 days after the deadline will usually face a higher late-filing penalty. For that reason, the Internal Revenue Service urges affected taxpayers to avoid the penalty increase by filing their return by Thursday, June 14.

Ordinarily, the late-filing penalty, also known as the failure-to-file penalty, is assessed when a taxpayer fails to file a tax return or request an extension by the due date. This penalty, which only applies if there is unpaid tax, is usually 5 percent for each month or part of a month that a tax return is late.

If a tax return is filed more than 60 days after the April due date -- or more than 60 days after the October due date if an extension was obtained -- the minimum penalty is either $210 or 100 percent of the unpaid tax, whichever is less. This means that if the tax due is $210 or less, the penalty is equal to the tax amount due. If the tax due is more than $210, the penalty is at least $210.

The late-filing penalty does not apply to the more than 135 million taxpayers who met this year’s April 18 deadline to file their individual tax return. It also won’t apply to the estimated 14 million taxpayers who asked the IRS for a six-month extension of time to file, as long as they file by Oct. 15, 2018. Though a tax return claiming a refund is also not subject to penalty, the IRS reminds taxpayers that, by law, they only have three years to file for the refund.

For those who did not file or request an extension, the IRS recommends filing by June 14 to avoid a penalty increase. The late-filing penalty will stop accruing once the taxpayer files.

In addition, the IRS urges taxpayers to pay what they owe to avoid additional late-payment penalty and interest charges. The late-payment penalty, also known as the failure-to-pay penalty, is usually    ½ of 1 percent of the unpaid tax for each month or part of a month the payment is late. Interest, currently at the rate of 5 percent per year, compounded daily, also applies to any payment made after the original April 18 deadline.

After a return is filed, the IRS will figure the penalty and interest due and bill the taxpayer. Normally, the taxpayer will then have 21 days to pay any amount due.

Taxpayers can use their online account to view their amount owed, make payments and apply for an online payment agreement. Before accessing their online account, taxpayers must authenticate their identity through the Secure Accessprocess.

Penalty relief may be available

Taxpayers who have a history of filing and paying on time often qualify to have the late filing and payment penalties abated. A taxpayer usually qualifies for this relief if they haven’t been assessed penalties for the past three years and meet other requirements. For more information, see the First-Time Penalty Abatement page on IRS.gov.

Even if a taxpayer does not qualify for this special relief, they may still be able to have penalties reduced or eliminated if their failure to file or pay on time was due to reasonable cause and not willful neglect. Be sure to read the penalty notice carefully and follow its instructions for requesting this relief.

Payment options

Many taxpayers delay filing because they are unable to pay what they owe. Often, these taxpayers qualify for one of the payment options available from the IRS. These include:

  • Installment Agreement – An installment agreement, or payment plan, allows a taxpayer to pay over time. Individuals who owe $50,000 or less in combined tax, penalties and interest can request a payment plan using the IRS’s Online Payment Agreement application. Those who have a balance under $100,000 may also qualify for a short term agreement. The agreement can usually be set up in minutes and requesters receive immediate notification of approval. To reduce the chance of default and avoid having to write and mail a check each month, select the direct debit option for making these payments. For other ways to set up a payment plan, visit Payment Plans, Installment Agreements
     
  • Offer in Compromise — Some struggling taxpayers may qualify to settle their tax bill for less than the amount they owe by submitting an offer in compromise. To help determine eligibility, use the Offer in Compromise Pre-Qualifier tool.

Special filing deadline rules apply to members of the military serving in combat zonestaxpayers living outside the U.S. and those living in declared disaster areas. For those who qualify, these special deadlines affect any penalty and interest calculations. Visit IRS.gov for details on these special filing rules.

Check withholding

Taxpayers who owe tax for 2017 can avoid having the same problem for 2018 by increasing the amount of tax withheld from their paychecks. For help determining the right amount to withhold, use the Withholding Calculator on IRS.gov

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SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) - We’re encouraged by declines in overall youth tobacco use over the last several years reflected in the 2017 National Youth Tobacco Survey. Protecting our nation’s youth from the dangers of tobacco products is among the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s most important responsibilities and we’re taking aggressive steps to make sure all tobacco products aren’t being marketed to, sold to, or used by kids. These efforts are a cornerstone of our comprehensive plan announced last summer. They are also the focus of our Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan announced in April. We’re actively examining a policy to prevent future generations from becoming addicted in the first place by rendering cigarettes minimally or non-addictive and taking every opportunity to disrupt the cycle of successive generations of nicotine and tobacco addiction.

While fewer youth are using cigarettes and other combustible tobacco products, we must do more to address the disturbingly high number of youth who are using e-cigarettes and vaping products. We must not lose sight of the fact that for the past several years, e-cigarettes have been the most commonly used tobacco product among both middle and high school students and a total of 2.1 million youth used e-cigarettes in 2017.

These figures are particularly concerning because youth exposure to nicotine — whether it comes from a cigarette or an e-cigarette — affects the developing brain and may rewire it to be more susceptible to nicotine addiction in the future. And while there was no change in e-cigarette use from 2016 to 2017 among high school-aged teens, it’s too soon to tell whether this represents a leveling off, following a steep decline from 2015 to 2016. But this bears watching.

Our work to protect youth from dangers of nicotine and tobacco products is first-and-foremost focused on making sure e-cigarettes — or any other tobacco products — aren’t getting into kids’ hands in the first place. That’s why as part of our Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan we conducted a nationwide blitz of brick-and-mortar and online retailers in April that led to warning letters to businesses that sold JUUL brand products to minors. We’re also planning to conduct additional nationwide blitzes in the near future as part of our sustained enforcement efforts to reduce tobacco product sales to minors. Additionally, we issued numerous warning letters — many in partnership with the Federal Trade Commission — to manufacturers, distributors and retailers for selling e-liquids used in e-cigarettes with false or misleading labeling and/or advertising that cause them to resemble kid-friendly food products such as juice boxes, candy or cookies, and some of them with cartoon-like imagery. These efforts are the start of a sustained campaign to address sales to minors.

As we work to address youth use of, and access to, these novel nicotine-delivery products, we’re also taking a hard look at whether certain design features and product marketing practices are fueling the youth use. To that end, we’ve required JUUL Labs Inc. and the manufacturers/importers of several other similar products to provide critical information for us to further examine marketing practices and the youth use and appeal of these types of products. We’ll explore all of our regulatory options, including enforcement actions, based on what we learn from this information. We’re also adding JUUL as a specific e-cigarette example in future tobacco use surveys to ensure we’re accurately capturing patterns of youth use of e-cigarette products.

In addition, we’ve been conducting focus groups with teens across the country about e-cigarettes to hear directly from young people to best inform our public education efforts about the dangers of youth tobacco use. And we know our compelling, science-based campaigns are having a meaningful impact through powerful messages that raise awareness, shift beliefs and ultimately save lives by changing behaviors. “The Real Cost” campaign has already helped prevent nearly 350,000 kids from smoking cigarettes since it launched in 2014. Capitalizing on that success, we expanded the campaign last fall with messages focused on preventing youth use of e-cigarettes. Later this year, we’ll be launching a full-scale campaign focused on youth use of e-cigarettes. We’ve had a lot of success with our campaigns in the past. And we expect that this new public effort will impact youth use of e-cigs in the same manner that our campaigns have impacted children’s use of combustible tobacco products.

Along with these efforts, we’re continuing to advance our framework for the regulation of products like e-cigarettes through our premarket review process to address youth initiation. Additionally, we’re exploring clear and meaningful measures to make tobacco products less toxic, appealing and addictive — with an intense focus on deterring youth use and exposure. This could include measures on flavors/designs that appeal to youth, child-resistant packaging and product labeling to prevent accidental child exposure to liquid nicotine. We also plan to explore additional restrictions on the sale and promotion of electronic nicotine delivery systems to further reduce youth exposure and access to these products.

E-cigarettes may present an important opportunity for adult smokers to transition off combustible tobacco products and onto nicotine delivery products that may not have the same level of risks associated with them. We are working hard to develop a pathway to put products like e-cigarettes through an appropriate series of regulatory gates to properly evaluate them as an alternative for adults who still want to get access to satisfying levels of nicotine, without all the risks associated with lighting tobacco on fire. And we will continue to encourage the development of potentially less harmful forms of nicotine delivery for currently addicted adult smokers. That also includes the development of medicinal nicotine products.

But these public health opportunities are put at risk if all we do is hook another generation of kids on nicotine and tobacco products through alternatives like e-cigarettes. Ultimately we need to make every effort to prevent youth tobacco use. This responsibility falls on all of us, including the companies that develop and market these products, the retailers selling them, and the online venues that help to fuel the teen popularity of, and access to, these products. We’re going to hold industry participants responsible for actions that promote youth addiction. There’s no acceptable number of children using tobacco products. We’ll take every opportunity to protect kids and significantly reduce tobacco-related disease and death.

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

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