Updating . .   

Michael Peevey ‘surrenders’ from California Public Utilities Commission -- Michael Peevey ended his tumultuous final term as president of the California Public Utilities Commission on Thursday with a lengthy, laudatory and at times feisty farewell session. Alexei Koseff in the Sacramento Bee$ -- 12/18/14

Sen. De Leon removes panel staffers who questioned his legislation -- In yet another shakeup in the state Senate, new President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles) has removed the top staff from a Senate committee that last session blocked one of his priority bills. Patrick McGreevy in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 12/18/14

State Sen. Ben Hueso avoids jail time in plea bargain -- State Sen. Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) on Thursday entered a plea bargain in which prosecutors lowered charges of drunk driving to a lesser misdemeanor, allowing him to avoid any possibility of jail time. Patrick McGreevy in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 12/18/14

Bay Area public defenders speak out for justice -- In a rare political statement, public defenders stepped out across the Bay Area on Thursday, holding rallies to show their solidarity with the reform movement sparked by recent deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of white police officers this year in Ferguson, Missouri, and Staten Island, New York. Tracey Kaplan in the San Jose Mercury$ -- 12/18/14

Aetna charging small businesses too much, California commissioner says -- With the bruising battle over Proposition 45 behind him, California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said Thursday that another health insurer is preparing to charge small businesses “excessive and unreasonable” rates. Christopher Cadelago in the Sacramento Bee$ -- 12/18/14

Auditor’s report highlights California’s data lapses -- Nearly two-thirds of state government data systems checked by auditors over two years contained unreliable information or were impossible to scrutinize for accuracy, according to a report released Tuesday. Jon Ortiz in the Sacramento Bee$ -- 12/18/14

Police reforms demanded at Oakland forum -- The debate over police treatment of minorities, especially black men, moved out of the streets and into a North Oakland church Wednesday where politicians and residents weighed in on the issue that has spurred a national protest movement. Matthew Artz in the Oakland Tribune -- 12/18/14

CalPERS: Prefunding retiree health care makes sense -- When State Controller John Chiang raised a red flag Tuesday about a looming $72 billion tab for retiree health care costs, eyes turned to the governor. Kathy Robertson Sacramento Business Journal -- 12/18/14

Agreement reached in Malibu beach access dispute -- In a victory for public beach access, the owner of Paradise Cove in Malibu has agreed to stop charging a $20 walk-in fee, to remove all signs banning surfing and to unlock a gate to the pier, the California Coastal Commission and the State Lands Commission said Thursday. Martha Groves in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 12/18/14

To give their children a better education, parents launch new school -- Afraid to send her daughter to a troubled high school, an L.A. parent joins others to launch a new school. Stephen Ceasar in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 12/18/14

When A Marketplace Only Offers One Health Insurer -- As the Covered California open enrollment period continues, many people in Northern California find there is only one insurer available in the exchange. Pauline Bartolone Capital Public Radio -- 12/18/14

Kaiser buying downtown Sacramento building for $40 million -- Kaiser Permanente is spending $40 million on a mostly vacant office building near the new Kings arena in downtown Sacramento, a further sign of the rejuvenation of the central city real estate market. Dale Kasler in the Sacramento Bee$ -- 12/18/14

Sony Cyberattack May Be Costliest Ever -- The attack is possibly the costliest ever for a U.S. company, said Avivah Litan, a cybersecurity analyst at research firm Gartner. "This attack went to the heart and core of Sony's business and succeeded," she said. "We haven't seen any attack like this in the annals of U.S. breach history." Bernard Condon, Eric Tucker and Mae Anderson Associated Press -- 12/18/14

What made this Bay Area housing agency one of the worst in the country -- The federal government recently removed Richmond, California, from its worst-of-the-worst list, and we're wrapping up our coverage. The two events aren’t related, but they make it a good time to take a look, by the numbers, at the troubles that plagued – and continue to plague – public housing in the city best known for its oil refineries and rancorous politics. Amy Julia Harris Center for Investigative Reporting -- 12/18/14

Christmas concert crash: Driver may have been using prescriptions, police say -- Police believe a driver who plowed into a crowd of people leaving a Christmas concert at a Redondo Beach church, killing three, had prescription drugs in her system. Veronica Rocha , Brittny Mejia in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 12/18/14

Wildermuth: Black Bart Award Nominee — Legislature is California’s Comeback Story -- Pigs are taking wing. There are snowdrifts outside the devil’s door. The Chicago Cubs will win the World Series. And the California Legislature is my pick for the Black Bart award. John Wildermuth Fox & Hounds -- 12/18/14

Quinn: Boehner and McCarthy Take Charge -- The vote to pass the “cromnibus” spending bill in Congress confirms the one of the biggest political stories of 2014: Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy are fully in charge in the House and will no longer allow Tea Party types to push them around. Tony Quinn Fox & Hounds -- 12/18/14

Veteran AP Trial Reporter Linda Deutsch to Retire -- Linda Deutsch, whose decades-long tenure as an Associated Press courts reporter made her a witness to some of the most sensational trials in U.S. history, is ending a career that saw her report Charles Manson's murder conviction, O.J. Simpson's acquittal and countless other verdicts involving the famous and the infamous. John Rogers Associated Press -- 12/18/14

Tom Verdin to lead AP team of statehouse reporting specialists -- The new team will “be a resource to our statehouse reporters looking for help broadening the scope of their reporting,” Brian Carovillano, AP’s managing editor for U.S. news, wrote in a brief Q and A accompanying the announcement. They will also work with a projects team that will turn out “ambitious enterprise” journalism on state government. Benjamin Mullin Poynter. -- 12/18/14

German researchers discover a flaw that could let anyone listen to your cell calls --German researchers have discovered security flaws that could let hackers, spies and criminals listen to private phone calls and intercept text messages on a potentially massive scale – even when cellular networks are using the most advanced encryption now available. Craig Timberg in the Washington Post$ -- 12/18/14

California Policy & Politics This Morning   

California highways seeing record traffic, bucking years of decline -- California’s highways are experiencing record traffic as the economy improves and gas prices plummet, reversing the declines of the recession, new state figures show. Phillip Reese in the Sacramento Bee$ -- 12/18/14

New furor emerges with CPUC in upheaval -- The state’s Public Utilities Commission meets for the last time this year Thursday facing a leadership vacuum and a fresh controversy involving one of the five gubernatorial appointees who regulate California’s electricity and gas monopolies. Jaxon Van Derbeken in the San Francisco Chronicle -- 12/18/14

Oakland police: We had no idea CHP officers dressed as protesters -- Although California Highway Patrol officials said they had planted plainclothes officers within recent demonstrations in Oakland and Berkeley with the approval of the cities’ respective police departments, Oakland police officials said Wednesday that they were unaware that the CHP had undercover officers within their jurisdiction the night one pulled a gun on protesters after his partner was attacked. Vivian Ho in the San Francisco Chronicle -- 12/18/14

San Jose city manager ousted as new mayor starts leadership changes -- The looming shakeup atop San Jose City Hall accelerated sharply on Wednesday as incoming Mayor Sam Liccardo moved to replace the city's top appointed official, paving the way for sweeping leadership changes in Silicon Valley's capital. Mike Rosenberg in the San Jose Mercury$ -- 12/18/14

SDPD sued over cellular tracking tech -- The San Diego Police Department is being sued by a civil rights organization demanding more information about how the department uses a controversial cellphone tracking technology, information the group says should be disclosed under the California Public Records Act. Lyndsay Winkley UT San Diego$ -- 12/18/14

Bay Bridge light show will go on -- There will be permanent, artistic lights at the end of the tunnel — the westbound tunnel of the Bay Bridge leading into San Francisco, that is — come 2016. After a two-month campaign, the nonprofit Illuminate the Arts announced Wednesday that it had raised the needed $4 million to reinstall the “Bay Lights” as a permanent fixture on the western end of the bridge. Bob Egelko in the San Francisco Chronicle -- 12/18/14

Cuba, California could prove to be powerful partners -- President Obama’s bold move to normalize relations with Cuba has huge political and financial implications not only for the nation, but for California, with enormous potential to expand jobs and partnerships with the state’s technology, biotech and agricultural sectors. Carla Marinucci and Joe Garofoli in the San Francisco Chronicle -- 12/18/14

Business groups cheer Obama's move to normalize Cuba relations -- U.S. financial institutions will be able to open accounts at their Cuban counterparts. U.S. travelers can use their debit and credit cards, instead of stacks of cash. And businesses can expand their exports of software and telecommunication systems. Andrew Khouri in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 12/18/14

Bay Bridge rods, bolts are safe and can stay, draft report says -- More than 2,000 rods and bolts on the new Bay Bridge eastern span whose safety was questioned last year when 32 of them cracked are not in danger of failing and should remain in place, according to a report that an oversight panel will consider Friday. Jaxon Van Derbeken in the San Francisco Chronicle -- 12/18/14

Vinod Khosla challenges judge’s order to open Martins Beach gate -- A billionaire Peninsula property owner filed a motion to throw out a judge’s order that he open the gate to Martins Beach, upping the ante in a long-running fracas over public access to the sandy cove. Peter Fimrite in the San Francisco Chronicle -- 12/18/14

Skelton: A smart California tax bill points the way to needed reform -- He's a freshman state senator showing no fear, no hesitation and seemingly no political sense. His first bill is a huge, historic tax hike. George Skelton in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 12/18/14

California Senate announces committee chairmanships -- Sen. Ricardo Lara has landed one of the most powerful committee chair assignments in the California Legislature, overseeing the Senate Appropriations Committee that decides the fate of hundreds of bills each year. Laurel Rosenhall in the Sacramento Bee$ -- 12/18/14

California Senate’s fiscal outlook hinges on complex spending formula -- A major ingredient in the state Senate’s recently revealed fiscal troubles, which prompted the layoffs of more than three-dozen workers last month, is that the formula controlling legislative budget growth came in much lower than expected for the 2014-15 fiscal year. Jim Miller in the Sacramento Bee$ -- 12/18/14

Ellen Corbett goes to work for Hayward school district -- Weeks after being term-limited out of the Legislature, former state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett has taken a lucrative new job with the Hayward Unified School District. Josh Richman in the San Jose Mercury$ -- 12/18/14

Tim Donnelly won’t enter California Senate special election -- Former Republican Assemblyman Tim Donnelly for now is holding fast to his own mantra: “Patriot, not Politician.” Christopher Cadelago in the Sacramento Bee$ -- 12/18/14

Economy, Employers, Jobs, Pensions   

Sony scraps 'The Interview' release; North Korea blamed for hack -- Sony Pictures Entertainment's extraordinary decision to scrap the Christmas release of "The Interview" came amid mounting pressure from powerful theater owners and other studios concerned that the film's release could keep moviegoers away from multiplexes during the holidays, one of the most lucrative periods for Hollywood. Richard Verrier, Ryan Faughnder, Brian Bennett in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 12/18/14

Killing The Interview Opens Studios to Terrorist Manipulation -- It's a cliche, but when it comes to today's cancellation of the Sony comedy The Interview, maybe the terrorists did win. Dennis Romero LA Weekly -- 12/18/14

Taxi Commission: Can LA cabs learn from Uber, Lyft? -- The Los Angeles Board of Taxicab Commissioners is considering requiring cab companies to make rides available through apps, to make them more competitive with ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft. Unlike in other big cities, it's nearly impossible to hail a cab in most parts of Southern California, so passengers have to call into dispatch centers. Alice Walton KPCC -- 12/18/14

San Francisco flower market deal still faces strong opposition -- The developer hoping to build an office complex at the San Francisco Flower Mart has agreed to construct a new 125,000-square-foot flower facility as part of a much larger mixed-use project. But the project still faces strong opposition from some flower vendors and anti-gentrification activists who are vowing to go to the ballot to stop it. J.K. Dineen in the San Francisco Chronicle -- 12/18/14

Unions will push $15 minimum wage in Sacramento, Davis -- Local labor leaders say they will ask voters in Sacramento and Davis to approve a minimum hourly wage of $15 in 2016. Allen Young Sacramento Business Journal -- 12/18/14

Greenhut: Affidavit shows cop union targeting foes -- Indictments are a sideshow. Case spotlights a political 'playbook' Steven Greenhut UT San Diego$ -- 12/18/14

Brown aims at retiree care costs -- It’s official: Gov. Jerry Brown’s January budget proposal will include a plan to reduce the nearly $72 billion in unfunded promises the state has made to pay retiree health benefits. Jon Ortiz in the Sacramento Bee$ -- 12/18/14

Wealth gap in America widens to record level, report says -- The wealth gap between middle- and upper-income households has widened to the highest level on record, says a new report. Don Lee in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 12/18/14

Consumer prices post biggest drop in 6 years on lower gasoline costs -- Plunging gasoline costs led to the largest drop in consumer prices in six years last month and added another complication for Federal Reserve policymakers as they try to determine when to start raising interest rates. Jim Puzzanghera in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 12/18/14

Fed signals it will go slow on lifting key interest rate -- The American economic outlook, bolstered by robust job growth and a sharp drop in gasoline prices, was boosted a little more with the Federal Reserve's signal that it would take as long as three years to raise interests to once-normal levels. Jim Puzzanghera, Don Lee in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 12/18/14

Education

Cal State Fullerton hosts Cuban journalists in rare visit to U.S. -- This is a first: state-controlled media members from communist Cuba asking independent American journalism students from Orange County about their craft. Roxana Kopetman in the Orange County Register$ -- 12/18/14

State to fight lawsuit by impoverished students -- State finance officials last week granted the California Department of Education $3.4 million to fight a lawsuit that demands the state fix disruptive conditions in some high-poverty schools where students allegedly are being denied the fundamental right to an education. Jane Meredith Adams EdSource -- 12/18/14

California schools step up efforts to help 'long-term English learners' -- After more than 11 years in Los Angeles public schools, Dasha Cifuentes still isn't speaking or writing English at grade level. Teresa Watanabe in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 12/18/14

Stedman Graham joins National U. faculty -- In light of his 28-year relationship with the high-profile Oprah Winfrey, Stedman Graham has successfully preserved his own identity. A noted author and motivational speaker in his own right, Graham is putting down some San Diego roots of sorts. Diane Bell UT San Diego$ -- 12/18/14

Drought  

California drought: We need 11 trillion gallons of water in the bank -- A series of rainstorms — one of which was powerful and destructive for residents statewide — helped deposit needed moisture to California, but it’s going to take 11 trillion gallons of water in storage to recover from the drought, NASA scientists said this week. Veronica Rocha in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 12/18/14

States in Parched Southwest Take Steps to Bolster Lake Mead -- Officials from water agencies in Arizona, California and Nevada signed an agreement last week to jointly add as much as three million acre-feet of water to Lake Mead by 2020, mostly through conservation and changes in water management that would reduce the amount that the states draw from the lake. Michael Wines in the New York Times$ -- 12/18/14

Environment

Cheap gas is not good news for those who worry about climate change -- Wall Street is frowning. Frackers are fuming. Electric-car manufacturers are fretting. And environmentalists are freaking out. David Horsey in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 12/18/14

Congress Extends Tax Credit for Wind Power, But it Won't Help -- But there's a problem: the extended PTC is highly unlikely to serve as an incentive for new wind power construction. That's because in order to qualify for the tax credit through 2015, a wind facility has to begin construction by the end of 2014 -- two weeks from now. Chris Clarke KCET Rewire -- 12/18/14

After big quake, Napa fault could move 6 inches in 3 years -- Think the Napa fault stopped moving after producing a 6.0 earthquake in August? Think again. Rosanna Xia, Rong-Gong Lin II in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 12/18/14

In war on coyotes, some argue for learning to live with them -- In Seal Beach, where there have been at least 60 attacks on pets over the last year, officials recently hired a company to trap coyotes and asphyxiate them in a mobile gas chamber filled with carbon dioxide. Louis Sahagun in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 12/18/14

The World's Biggest Car Company Wants to Get Rid of Gasoline -- Toyota's president is driving the automaker into the fuel-cell future, even as its hybrids and plug-in electrics continue to sell well. Brian Bremner, Craig Trudell, and Yuki Hagiwara Bloomberg Businessweek -- 12/18/14

Health

After Blue Shield Pulls Out of Zip Codes, Consumers See Limited Insurance Options -- For some people living along California's state border, the closest or most convenient care is out of reach. Kory and Stacey Felker experienced this problem for the first time this year, after they signed up for individual insurance with Anthem Blue Cross. Pauline Bartolone Capital Public Radio -- 12/18/14

New Obamacare enrollments in California top 144,000 -- During the initial rollout of the federal health law, 1.2 million people purchased a private health plan through the Covered California exchange. Chad Terhune in the Los Angeles Times$ Lisa Aliferis KQED -- 12/18/14

Board shake-up in the offing at Covered California? -- California’s health insurance exchange signed up more than 144,000 people in the first month and determined that another 157,000 were eligible for coverage. Christopher Cadelago in the Sacramento Bee$ -- 12/18/14

Whooping Cough Infections Unusually High Among Latino Babies -- Public health officials are trying to understand why Latino babies are contracting whooping cough at much higher rates than other babies. April Dembosky KQED -- 12/18/14

Also . . .

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson wants police to consider body cameras --Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has asked the city police department to explore broad changes to the way it recruits and trains new officers, examine how cops engage with the community and launch a pilot program to equip officers with body cameras. Ryan Lillis and Marissa Lang in the Sacramento Bee$ -- 12/18/14

What does video from the new LAPD body camera look like? Check it out here -- Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Tuesday that the city was purchasing 7,000 body cameras for its police officers in an effort to increase transparency. Joseph Serna in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 12/18/14

POTUS 44    

Cuba deal throws Obama foreign policy beliefs into sharp relief -- It took six years and months of secret negotiations, but on Wednesday, President Obama finally delivered on a pledge that cuts to the heart of his foreign policy. It’s a view of the world that emphasizes pragmatism over ideology, engaging enemies rather than isolating them and setting aside historic grievances in order to reshape the future. Juliet Eilperin and Greg Jaffe in the Washington Post$ -- 12/18/14

Obama libre -- It’s been a bad year. But the president is closing strong. Edward-Isaac Dovre and Carrie Budoff Brown Politico -- 12/18/14

Beltway

Balz: Jeb Bush: Front-runner, underdog or both? -- Jeb Bush could be the most unusual of presidential candidates: both a front-runner and an underdog.Perhaps that explains the former Florida governor’s unexpected announcement Tuesday that he will actively explore a presidential candidacy. Dan Balz in the Washington Post$ -- 12/18/14