Updates since early This Morning

Kinde Durkee sued by congresswomen, state senator -- Lawsuits were filed Wednesday by three members of congress and a state senator alleging that campaign treasurer Kinde Durkee stole more than $1 million from political accounts and that the bank they used aided and abetted the scheme. Patrick McGreevy in the Los Angeles Times -- 2/29/12

Lawmakers reject Gov. Brown's cuts to welfare -- An Assembly subcommittee rejected Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed cuts to CalWORKs on Wednesday, dealing a blow to the governor’s spending plan. Chris Megerian LA Times PolitiCal Kevin Yamamura SacBee Capitol Alert -- 2/29/12

Jerry Brown pitches tax plan, hails charter school 'insurgents' -- Gov. Jerry Brown urged charter school supporters at the Capitol this afternoon to back his ballot initiative to raise taxes, as he continues to try pushing the proponents of competing tax initiatives to step aside. David Siders SacBee Capitol Alert -- 2/29/12

Republicans drop party in congressional races -- Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks, who is running in a crowded race for an open congressional seat, on Wednesday switched her registration from Republican to "decline to state." Jean Merl in the Los Angeles Times -- 2/29/12

Controversial California water bill passes US House -- The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a controversial water bill that would block the restoration of the San Joaquin River and give California farmers and urban residents more water. GOSIA WOZNIACKA AP -- 2/29/12

In California prisons, 301 lifers from juvenile crimes -- As lawmakers consider loosening life sentences for juvenile criminals, a new report released Wednesday said 301 California inmates are locked up for life after committing crimes when they were younger than 18. Chris Megerian LA Times PolitiCal -- 2/29/12

SEIU president tells Jerry Brown's tax-plan rivals to step aside -- Powerful labor leader David Kieffer says proponents of tax measures competing with Gov. Jerry Brown's measure should get out of the way. Kevin Yamamura SacBee Capitol Alert -- 2/29/12

Dreier to retire -- California's seniority standing in the House of Representatives will take another hit, with the announcement Wednesday by Rep. David Dreier, R-San Dimas, that he will be retiring. Michael Doyle SacBee Capitol Alert Richard Simon LA Times PolitiCal -- 2/29/12

GOP lawmakers back Fish and Game commissioner who killed cougar -- Eleven Republican state senators came to the defense of embattled Fish and Game Commission President Daniel Richards on Wednesday after Democratic lawmakers called for him to resign for shooting a mountain lion while on a hunting trip in Idaho. Patrick McGreevy LA Times PolitiCal -- 2/29/12

GOP Senate leader proposes funding fix: School-bus advertising -- Tough times call for creativity. So as California's cash-strapped schools look for ways to balance their books, GOP Senate leader Bob Huff wants to give them a new option: school-bus advertising. Michael J. Mishak in the Los Angeles Times -- 2/29/12

Myers: California's Political Purple Reign -- The report from the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California concludes, both in data and in vivid color, that the state is much more in the political middle... and even leans more conservative... than many people assume. John Myers Capitol Notes -- 2/29/12

State loosens 'fracking' ban near Taft -- The state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources lifted a ban Friday that had prohibited the company from steam fracking within 150 feet of any seeping wells at the prolific Midway-Sunset field. Before it can resume the practice, the company must show that the steam does not cause oil and other fluids to seep to the surface. JOHN COX in the Bakersfield Californian -- 2/29/12

Hetch Hetchy -- The dreams of John Muir and other environmentalists could become an expensive reality under a ballot measure designed to drain Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park and restore the valley’s meadows and forests. JOHN UPTON Bay Citizen -- 2/29/12

Schwarzenegger to unveil statue, push after-school programs in Ohio -- Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is set to wade back into politics this week, but in typical Schwarzenegger fashion, a scheduled appearance in Ohio on Friday will be part policy, part self-promotion. Anthony York LA Times PolitiCal -- 2/29/12

$400 Pens and Flowers: What Gifts Are Your Elected Officials Claiming? -- Every year, California’s Fair Political Practices Commission requires elected officials to file forms listing “assets and incomes” that could constitute a conflict of interest. On the surface, it’s another dry, bureaucratic document with stamps, checkboxes and redacted signatures. MARIE MCINTOSH Bay Citizen -- 2/29/12

Fox: Newsom May be on to Something – if not Something New -- Last week, Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom argued at a San Francisco Chronicle editorial board meeting that the position of Lt. Governor should either be dissolved or reformed. Joel Fox Fox & Hounds -- 2/29/12

Lawmaker pushes to cut 'R-word' from California law books -- A California lawmaker is determined to rid the state of mental retardation -- in its law books. Jim Sanders SacBee Capitol Alert -- 2/29/12

Housing meltdown dropped California's home ownership rate -- The housing industry meltdown in California sharply reversed a trend of steadily increasing homeownership, a new statistical compilation by the Census Bureau reveals. Dan Walters SacBee Capitol Alert -- 2/29/12

With Olympia Snowe's retirement, the center crumbles -- The center won’t hold in Washington — in fact, it’s fleeing. Maine Republican Olympia Snowe called it quits on Tuesday, following Democrats Joe Lieberman, Kent Conrad and Ben Nelson in a voluntary exodus of Senate centrists. JONATHAN ALLEN Politico -- 2/29/12

Utility action group disbanding amid probe -- A citizens group that for more than 25 years has advocated for utility customers in San Diego is disbanding amid a federal grand jury investigation into its business practices and leadership. The Utility Consumers’ Action Network announced that it filed last week for dissolution. Jeff McDonald UT San Diego -- 2/29/12


   California Policy and Politics This Morning

Fish and Game Commission head says defiantly he won't resign -- Dan Richards' critics want him ousted from the California Fish and Game Commission for killing a mountain lion in Idaho, where such hunting is legal. Stuart Leavenworth in the Sacramento Bee Paul Rogers in the San Jose Mercury Marisa Lagos in the San Francisco Chronicle -- 2/29/12

Walters: California legislators show their hypocrisy over hunting issue -- Dan Richards, who chairs the California Fish and Game Commission, is under fire in the Capitol because he killed a mountain lion in Idaho and posed with his trophy for a picture that was later published on a hunting publication website. Dan Walters in the Sacramento Bee -- 2/29/12

Support for gay marriage takes dramatic leap in California, new poll shows -- A new poll shows gay marriage has arrived in California – in public opinion if not in state lawbooks. Dan Smith and Torey Van Oot in the Sacramento Bee -- 2/29/12

Nadia Lockyer's ex-lover: 'There's a way bigger story than the sex tapes' -- The man at the center of the drug-infused, sex-laced scandal that has rocked the political careers and shaky marriage of state Treasurer Bill Lockyer and his wife, Nadia, strode into a San Jose courtroom Tuesday, his hair slick, his shirt untucked, and told a reporter, "There's a way bigger story than the sex tapes." Julia Prodis Sulek in the San Jose Mercury Phillip Matier, Andrew Ross in the San Francisco Chronicle -- 2/29/12

California bill would let non-doctors do some abortions to expand access -- Senate bill would allow nurse practitioners, physician assistants and nurse midwives to perform routine abortions in the first trimester. Pérez and Steinberg back Sen. Christine Kehoe's bill as co-sponsors. Nicholas Riccardi in the Los Angeles Times -- 2/29/12

Feinstein aims to blunt provisions of detainee law -- Sen. Dianne Feinstein today will challenge a law signed by President Obama that allows the military to arrest and imprison, without charge or trial, Americans suspected of terrorism. Carolyn Lochhead in the San Francisco Chronicle -- 2/29/12

L.A. County labor federation picks its candidates -- The influential Los Angeles County Federation of Labor on Tuesday announced its endorsements in this year's congressional and legislative elections--support that can be crucial in hotly contested races. Jean Merl LA Times PolitiCal -- 2/29/12

Can you balance California's budget? -- When it comes to spending taxpayer money, everyone in California thinks they can do better than the politicians they’ve elected. Chris Megerian LA Times PolitiCal -- 2/29/12

Herdt: Has the California GOP hit bottom? -- Attending California Republican Party conventions in recent years as an observer has always been something of a surreal experience. They are gatherings of like-minded people who enter into convention halls and then pretend that there is no world outside. Timm Herdt in the Ventura Star -- 2/29/12

PG&E expects gas-safety program to cost $5 billion -- A top Pacific Gas and Electric Co. official acknowledged Tuesday that the utility's program to improve its gas pipeline safety after the San Bruno disaster would eventually cost about $5 billion, factoring in the finance costs over 50 years. Jaxon Van Derbeken in the San Francisco Chronicle -- 2/29/12

PG&E customers should pay for pipeline improvements, company says -- Despite its recent efforts to be more customer-focused, Pacific Gas & Electric continued to insist Tuesday that ratepayers pick up the bulk of the tab for upgrading its aging gas pipelines, though it did make a small concession by agreeing to pay for tests on some of its pipelines. Mike Taugher in the San Jose Mercury -- 2/29/12

Lessons from Jack Abramoff -- The former lobbyist and convicted felon tells teens at Beverly Hills High — his alma mater — what not to do if they're interested in a political career. Stephen Ceasar in the Los Angeles Times -- 2/29/12

Lopez: Evil lurks in Super PACs -- The California Assembly is making another attempt to require disclosure of donations to political campaigns, and it deserves support. Steve Lopez in the Los Angeles Times -- 2/29/12

CalBuzz: Mitt and Santo Muddle As Obama Rallies Blue Collars -- Back in November, Calbuzz spelled out the reasons why President Barack Obama will be re-elected, chief among them the old political writers’ adage: You can’t beat somebody with nobody. Jerry Roberts and Phil Trounstine CalBuzz -- 2/29/12

   Taxes - Fees

San Jose leaders agree to revisit taxes in June -- The San Jose City Council voted Tuesday to resume discussions about possible tax hikes in June, after a measure to slow growth in employee pension costs goes before city voters. John Woolfolk in the San Jose Mercury -- 2/29/12

   Economy - Jobs

Stockton council weighs plan to forestall city's insolvency -- Residents pack hearing as city officials, in uncharted territory, debate a last-ditch effort to avoid becoming California's largest municipality to file for bankruptcy. Diana Marcum in the Los Angeles Times -- 2/29/12

Corporations healthy, while employment, housing suffer -- California’s economic condition is a study in disparity, with corporate earnings booming at the same time that the jobless rate far exceeds the national average and the housing market remains deeply disturbed. John Howard Capitol Weekly -- 2/29/12

Sacramento writing up the terms of arena deal -- Backers of a new downtown arena for the Sacramento Kings took a virtual victory lap through the city Tuesday – and plunged into the nitty-gritty details of a $387 million endeavor that still has as many questions as answers. Dale Kasler and Tony Bizjak in the Sacramento Bee -- 2/29/12

American Airlines employees at LAX to protest cuts -- American Airlines mechanics and ground workers Wednesday are expected to protest against proposed job, pension and health care cuts at 13 airports nationwide, including Los Angeles International Airport. Art Marroquin in the Torrance Daily Breeze -- 2/29/12

Billions piled up in low-income housing fund may disappear -- In the ongoing obituary for California’s late redevelopment system, one “virtue” set it apart: 20 percent of the billions flowing in had to be dedicated to low-and moderate-income housing. Teri Sforza in the Orange County Register -- 2/29/12

Orange attempting to stop day laborers -- The City Council will attempt to close legal holes in city laws regarding day laborers who congregate and solicit jobs at the intersection of Tustin Street and Taft Avenue, but legal help could take some time. EUGENE W. FIELDS in the Orange County Register -- 2/29/12


Adelanto parent-trigger supporters claim fraud -- Parents seeking to improve Desert Trails Elementary say opponents altered documents in an effort to defeat the petition to force change at the campus. Teresa Watanabe in the Los Angeles Times -- 2/29/12

Fensterwald: Parent Trigger II: Desert warfare -- State regulations written to bring order and rationality to the Parent Trigger petition process are getting a bruising debut in the Mojave Desert town of Adelanto. John Fensterwald educatedguess -- 2/29/12

Teachers' contracts hinder misconduct investigation -- A 1990s agreement, in exchange for a pay cut, to place 'pre-disciplinary' documents in an 'expired file' after four years complicates L.A. Unified's attempts to review records. Howard Blume in the Los Angeles Times -- 2/29/12

Commission: Community colleges should take over adult schools run by school districts -- Community colleges should take over all adult school programs from cash-strapped school districts, the LIttle Hoover Commission, a state watchdog agency, recommended yesterday. Louis Freedberg and Sue Frey EdSource -- 2/29/12

   Health Care

Food truck bill seeks to combat childhood obesity -- In this city of food fanatics, a proposed state law designed to promote children's health would ban food trucks from just about every neighborhood in San Francisco except the Financial District, South of Market and Dogpatch. Rachel Gordon in the San Francisco Chronicle -- 2/29/12


Sierra snowpack at 30 percent of normal, but reservoirs are still pretty full -- California's Sierra Nevada snow pack levels are just 30 percent of normal for this time of year, state water officials said Tuesday. But experts said not to expect water restrictions this summer because many of the state's reservoirs and aquifers are still brimming from last year's wet winter. Paul Rogers in the San Jose Mercury -- 2/29/12

Enviros petition to protect wolf as endangered in California -- Environmental groups petitioned the California Fish and Game Commission on Monday to protect the gray wolf as endangered under the California Endangered Species Act. If determined to have merit, it would require the state to put together a recovery plan for the wolves. Dean Kuipers in the Los Angeles Times -- 2/29/12

Increased timber sales sought to fund rural counties, schools -- Proposed federal legislation would require increased timber sales in national forests to generate revenue for rural counties and schools – a plan that's at odds with other Congressional efforts to extend a decade-old program that compensates forest communities that have cut back logging. Joanna Lin California Watch -- 2/29/12

'A real roadmap,' as 832 miles in new bikeways come to Los Angeles County -- More than 830 new miles of bikeways would be added to unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County -- including on curving roads through the Santa Monica Mountains -- under a plan approved by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. Melissa Pamer in the Los Angeles Daily News -- 2/29/12


L.A. Police Commission OKs controversial plan to exempt some unlicensed drivers from vehicle impound -- The Los Angeles Police Commission on Tuesday approved the department's controversial plan to exempt some unlicensed drivers from costly 30-day impounds of their vehicles. C.J. Lin in the Los Angeles Daily News Joel Rubin in the Los Angeles Times -- 2/29/12


Sacramento's U.S. prosecutor defends medical marijuana crackdown -- As the top federal prosecutor in Sacramento was announcing a new focus on huge pot farms in the Central Valley on Tuesday, a U.S. district judge delivered a separate blow to efforts to thwart crackdowns on medical marijuana. Sam Stanton in the Sacramento Bee -- 2/29/12

California insurance regulators take enforcement actions -- California regulators have settled an enforcement action against GeoVera Insurance Co. after receiving complaints from earthquake insurance policy holders. Marc Lifsher in the Los Angeles Times -- 2/29/12

Tribe pursues plans for off-site casino -- A tiny tribe based in rural East County is edging closer to building Southern California’s first off-reservation casino. Steve Schmidt UT San Diego -- 2/29/12

   POTUS 44

Worried Dems pressing Obama on gas prices -- Congressional Democrats are ramping up pressure on President Obama to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to prevent rising gas prices from threatening the economy and their election-year prospects. Alexander Bolton The Hill -- 2/29/12


Mitt Romney averts disaster in Michigan primary -- The Republican's primary victories in Arizona and his native Michigan give him badly needed momentum, if not the conservative stamp of approval. Paul West, Maeve Reston and Seema Mehta in the Los Angeles Times -- 2/29/12

Romney Faces Stubborn Question, Despite Victories -- After 5 caucuses, 6 primaries, 20 debates and $30 million in television commercials, Mitt Romney leaves here facing the same stubborn question: Can a onetime Northeastern governor with a history of ideological migration win the Republican presidential nomination in the era of the Tea Party, with all its demands of political purity and passion? JIM RUTENBERG in the New York Times -- 2/29/12

In Ohio, Santorum Tries to Widen Message While Keeping Base Excited -- Even on primary day in Michigan, where he lost narrowly, Rick Santorum detoured into neighboring Ohio on Tuesday with an eye on an important state that votes next week on Super Tuesday. TRIP GABRIEL and KATHARINE Q. SEELYE in the New York Times -- 2/29/12