Undocumented residents can get a California driver's license starting Jan. 1, the federal government shutdown has turned Yosemite into a "ghost park" and a high percentage of Fresno County elementary school students are truant, according to a state report.
Here are the top stories of the past week, along with selected comments posted by readers at fresnobee.com.
License to drive
What happened: Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday signed legislation in Fresno that will allow undocumented immigrants to apply for driver's licenses, capping a nearly two-decade effort by immigrant-rights activists to pass the law. Undocumented residents will have to pass a written and driving test and obtain proof of insurance and a license before driving.
What it means: Eleven states and Puerto Rico are now issuing driver's licenses or driving privilege cards to undocumented immigrants. When this year's state legislative sessions began, only Washington, New Mexico and Utah were issuing such licenses.
What readers said:
"Honestly, I'm not sure it's a great idea, but I can see why it was passed. I suspect a lot of it comes from a need to collect driver's license fees from those on our state's roads."
— Matt Jacobs
"This is a great moment for immigrants and stop once and for all the daylight robbery of their property and money by law enforcement and the tow truck companies."
— Centro Binacional para el Desarrollo Indigena Oaxaqueno L.A.
"Robbery? They don't have a driver license and are in the US ILLEGALLY! I support the new license law. Hopefully the path to citizenship can be laid out. BUT PEOPLE NEED TO FOLLOW THE LAW!"
— Jacob Dellone
Closed for business
What happened: The federal government shutdown turned Yosemite National Park into a "ghost park" last week, with visitors in hotels and campgrounds ordered to leave. Through traffic — such as motorists heading to the east side of the Sierra along Tioga Road — is being allowed in and entrance fees are not being collected.
What it means: The shutdown has been a blow to wedding parties, but also to local businesses. Yosemite generates about $380 million a year in tourist dollars for its neighboring communities, park spokesman Scott Gediman said.
What readers said:
"The original House bill fully funded the government, but asked only that the 1 year waivers given Corporations to lawful requirements of the ACA by the administration should be extended to private citizens as well. Given the major snafu in technology that has arisen. That would seem a reasonable request and would result in fully funding the government. Apparently, the President sees himself above the law that he signed and insists is law - in spite of providing waivers to groups that have been his supporters."
— Warren Dane
"No responsible legislator has any business using the spending bill as a vehicle for extortion no matter how passionately they feel about their cause. Republicans lost the election and the tea party is a minority within a minority party and they need to get over it."
— Stephen Montgomery
"Guess who still gets paid during the shutdown"
— Ernest Edwards
What happened: More than one out of every five Fresno County elementary school students was truant last year, costing county districts millions of dollars and even more money through increased poverty and incarceration, according to a report released Monday by the state Attorney General's Office.
What it means: Fresno County Schools Superintendent Jim Yovino said it's critical students make it to class on time, but said systemic problems in the home and prevalent health issues in the Central Valley like asthma are keeping some kids out of school.
What readers said:
"Those Statistics include: "Habitual Truant" & Valedictorian Class of 2013 Fresno High Bernadette LaMontagne -Schenck. Shocked? I was!!!"
— Paul Schenck
"Make education more relevant to students and they'll actually want to go to school. We have a way of making it to things we find important: the doctor; the grocery store; the utilities office when they shut off your water. People will go to things they want to do."
— David Budzik
Catching Up is compiled by Bee editors. Go to fresnobee.com/catchingup/ to comment or learn more about these stories.