* Updates Since Early

Molly Munger gives tax initiative campaign $1.5 million more -- One day after Gov. Jerry Brown and the California Federation of Teachers announced an agreement to combine forces behind one tax hike proposal, civil rights attorney Molly Munger has dropped another $1.5 million into the campaign to qualify her own rival tax plan for the November ballot. Torey Van Oot SacBee Capitol Alert -- 3/15/12

Judge signals his intent to release pepper spray report -- The judge in Friday's UC Davis pepper-spray hearing issued a tentative ruling late this afternoon indicating that he plans to deny efforts to stop release of a report into the Nov. 18 incident and will not agree to seal portions of the report. Sam Stanton in the Sacramento Bee -- 3/15/12

State ethics panel delays posting judges' financial disclosures -- The state Fair Political Practices Commission decided Thursday to delay posting financial interest statements by 2,500 elected judges on the Internet after representatives said they feared the easy access to personal information would put them in danger. Patrick McGreevy LA Times PolitiCal$ Howard Mintz in the San Jose Mercury -- 3/15/12

Tim Donnelly seeks plea deal in airport gun case -- Assemblyman Tim Donnelly is seeking a plea deal on misdemeanor charges stemming from the discovery of a loaded firearm in his hand-carry luggage by screeners at Ontario International Airport. Jim Sanders SacBee Capitol Alert Michael J. Mishak LA Times PolitiCal$ -- 3/15/12

Obama 2012 campaign: Kick-off day -- Vice President Joe Biden kicked off the 2012 Obama-Biden presidential campaign with a fiery union-hall speech in this northwestern Ohio auto town — and 600 miles away President Barack Obama turned the latest in a line of energy speeches into an amped-up event with the distinct feel of a general-election stump speech. GLENN THRUSH Politico -- 3/15/12

Polling, campaign strategy forced initiative deal -- In less than a week, Gov. Jerry Brown went from resignation over the prospect of facing multiple tax initiatives on the November ballot to announcing a key political merger with a competing proposal pushed by a teachers union. JUDY LIN Associated Press -- 3/15/12

GOP: Repeal fire “tax” -- San Diego area Republican lawmakers stepped up their campaign against a $150 fire fee on rural residents, promoting legislation to repeal the charge and endorsing court challenges. Michael Gardner UT San Diego -- 3/15/12

Fox: Business Could Oppose Compromise Tax Initiative -- News that the governor and the California Federation of Teachers have reached agreement on a compromise tax initiative might give a boost to tax opponents. Joel Fox Fox & Hounds -- 3/15/12

Wildermuth: Brown Surrenders on Ballot Tax Measure -- If there was ever any doubt that Gov. Jerry Brown is mighty worried about the chances of passing his tax initiative come November, he eliminated it Wednesday when surrendered to the “something for nothing” wing of the Democratic Party. John Wildermuth Fox & Hounds -- 3/15/12

Why Newt Gingrich isn't quitting the GOP race -- At 68, the former House speaker is making what figures to be his last fling at elective politics. But it is his sense of himself as an epic figure that may well be what's keeping him going. Paul West in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 3/15/12

Apple shares hit $600 ahead of new iPad release -- The brief rise to $600 is historic for Apple, marking the first time the firm's shares have hit such a high price. Apple is currently the world's most valuable company at a market capitalization of about $553 billion. Nathan Olivarez-Giles in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 3/15/12

Feinstein defends inclusion of gays, lesbians and illegal immigrants in Violence Against Women Act -- California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein will head to the floor today with other Democratic women Senators to push for renewal of the Clinton-era Violence Against Women Act. Carolyn Lochhead Chronicle Politics -- 3/15/12


   California Policy and Politics This Morning

Brown takes tougher tack on wealthy -- In a deal with a union on his ballot initiative, the governor pares the sales-tax provision and hikes rates on the rich. Anthony York in the Los Angeles Times$ Kevin Yamamura in the Sacramento Bee Steven Harmon in the San Jose Mercury Wyatt Buchanan, Marisa Lagos in the San Francisco Chronicle -- 3/15/12

Steinberg 'happy and relieved' over ballot deal -- Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg celebrated a deal Wednesday between Gov. Jerry Brown and the California Federation of Teachers to place a compromise tax initiative on the November ballot. Kevin Yamamura SacBee Capitol Alert -- 3/15/12

Skelton: Acrobat Brown does a flip on tax hike measure -- Back in the day, when Gov. Jerry Brown would dazzle us with a flip-flop, he'd land on his feet spouting philosophy. George Skelton in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 3/15/12

CalPERS OKs reduction in investment forecast, costing state extra $167 million per year -- CalPERS gave final approval today to a quarter-point reduction in its investment forecast, but will look at softening the fiscal impact on government budgets. Dale Kasler in the Sacramento Bee John Woolfolk in the San Jose Mercury Judy Lin Associated Press -- 3/15/12

CalPERS ‘smoothing’ eases employer rate shock -- CalPERS is planning a two-year phase in of a rate increase resulting from a lower earnings forecast adopted yesterday, continuing a “smoothing” policy that softens the impact of rising pension costs on deficit-ridden state and local government budgets. Ed Mendel Calpensions.com -- 3/15/12

Assembly panel blocks expansion of court computer system -- An Assembly budget subcommittee voted unanimously Wednesday to block expansion of a statewide court case management system that has become the focal point of a months-long political war between the state's judicial leadership and some rebel judges. Dan Walters SacBee Capitol Alert -- 3/15/12

Supreme Court supports San Diego water transfer -- The state Supreme Court without comment Wednesday upheld the ongoing transfer of water from Imperial Valley farmers to San Diego County. Michael Gardner UT San Diego -- 3/15/12

Prominent California lobbyist Rod Blonien found dead at home -- Rod Blonien, a Capitol fixture for years as Deukmejian administration official and later as a major lobbyist for gambling and horse racing interests, was found dead in his home Tuesday, the apparent victim of a heart attack. He was 55. Dan Walters SacBee Capitol Alert -- 3/15/12

California lawmakers remain highest paid, so raises unlikely -- Gov. Jerry Brown’s $173,987 salary is slightly lower than the pay of his counterpart in Pennsylvania, but California legislators still have much higher salaries than lawmakers in other states, according to a survey released Wednesday. Patrick McGreevy in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 3/15/12

One of biggest natural gas hazards: brittle pipes -- One of the biggest natural-gas safety hazards threatening Californians is a notoriously brittle brand of plastic pipe made in the 1970s that failed and caused two explosions within the past year, state regulators said Wednesday. Jaxon Van Derbeken in the San Francisco Chronicle -- 3/15/12

PG&E settles forest-fire suits for $29.5 million -- Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and two of its subcontractors have agreed to pay $29.5 million to settle a pair of federal lawsuits in which the government said the company's power lines sparked wildfires in national forests in California, prosecutors said Wednesday. Demian Bulwa in the San Francisco Chronicle -- 3/15/12

Stop-Sign Cameras Ticket 70,000 in Los Angeles Parks -- The cameras produce revenue for the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA). But how much can hikers and nature lovers really generate by rolling through seven stop signs in the parks? Maybe $25,000 a year? Seventy-five grand? In fiscal year 2010, the cameras collected $2.4 million for the mountains authority. Michael Goldstein LA Weekly -- 3/15/12

Hawthorne red-light camera program to continue -- Hawthorne's red-light camera program will continue for now despite minimal evidence that it reduces injury collisions. Sandy Mazza in the Torrance Daily Breeze -- 3/15/12

   Taxes - Fees

Republicans to propose repeal of California fire tax -- Republicans plan to call for the repeal of a controversial wildfire fee that Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature imposed on rural homeowners last year to cover the cost of wildland firefighting. Michael J. Mishak in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 3/15/12

   Economy - Jobs

High-speed rail panel promises changes -- When the California High-Speed Rail Authority finishes tweaking its business plan in a few weeks, expect the cost to drop, the construction time to be shortened and improvements along the Peninsula and in Southern California to be added. Michael Cabanatuan in the San Francisco Chronicle -- 3/15/12


Fensterwald: Now there are two -- Gov. Jerry Brown is halfway to having only one tax initiative on the November ballot, now that a coalition led by the California Federation of Teachers has agreed to merge its proposed tax with Brown’s in a deal that will raise more money from the wealthiest 1 percent for a longer period – with a portion of the extra money likely going to the state’s community colleges and universities. John Fensterwald educatedguess -- 3/15/12

Higher community college fee plan in Santa Monica would be a first in California -- Depending on your perspective, Santa Monica College’s plan to charge students four to five times the normal fee to add sections to oversubscribed classes is either a brilliant idea to cope with its shrinking revenues, or a misguided strategy making it more difficult for low-income students to reach their academic goals. Louis Freedberg EdSource- 3/15/12

   Health Care

Kinship caregivers struggle without state support -- Since the mid-eighties, the pool of traditional foster families has been shrinking. Child welfare agencies started looking to relatives or people connected to the family as guardians as an alternative to foster parents. Today, more than a third of foster kids in California are in kinship care. Callie Shanafelt HealthyCal.org -- 3/15/12


Farmers gain ground in California water wars as bill passes House -- San Joaquin Valley farmers, desperate for a more stable water supply, may have finally hit a gusher. Matt Weiser in the Sacramento Bee -- 3/15/12

Panel examines targets to reduce water use -- Water suppliers have made major progress toward a target of reducing urban water use 20 percent by 2020, but California still would come up short if current trends continue, witnesses told an Assembly panel Wednesday. JIM MILLER in the Riverside Press -- 3/15/12

Environmental groups push EPA to ban lead ammo -- A group of 100 environmental organizations has petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate lead in ammunition as a toxic substance. Tia Ghose California Watch -- 3/15/12

Residents protesting Hermosa Beach oil drilling plan -- A group of Hermosa Beach residents unofficially kicked off a campaign this week to stop an oil drilling proposal, pressing city leaders to take a stance on the deeply divisive issue and asking them to release more information tied to the drilling plan. Douglas Morino in the Torrance Daily Breeze -- 3/15/12

Are You in Harm’s Way? Rising Seas Increase Flood Risk in California -- Tens of thousands of Californians will be placed at risk in the years to come as sea levels continue rising along the California coast. The official planning parameter for the San Francisco Bay Area acknowledges a potential 16-inch rise by 2050. Molly Samuel KQED Climate Watch -- 3/15/12


DOJ urges high court to take Soledad cross case -- The federal government is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case on the future of the Mount Soledad cross in La Jolla. Greg Moran UT San Diego -- 3/15/12

Oakland gives approval for 4 more pot dispensaries -- Oakland officials issued preliminary approvals Wednesday for four new medical marijuana dispensaries, but the pot shops won't open their doors until midsummer at the earliest. Kevin Fagan in the San Francisco Chronicle -- 3/15/12

Prominent Berkeley marijuana dispensary to close shop -- One of California’s biggest medical marijuana establishments – embraced by local officials as a model business that donates to the poor and pays millions in taxes – has become the latest target in a statewide crackdown by federal prosecutors. Michael Montgomery California Watch -- 3/15/12

Lancaster complaint accuses Los Angeles County of bias in housing -- Officials say the housing authority favors blacks for Section 8 vouchers and markets the city to them. The agency's chief says deciding where to live is up to recipients of the federal aid for the needy. Ann M. Simmons in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 3/15/12

Goldman Sachs executive's parting shots shock Wall Street -- A departing executive accused the firm in a newspaper column of losing its moral compass and being overtaken by a greed-infested corporate culture. Walter Hamilton and Nathaniel Popper in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 3/15/12

Goldman Sachs fights back against claims of ‘toxic’ environment -- Goldman Sachs on Wednesday rebuffed claims made by a former company executive that the investment bank had morphed into a “toxic and destructive” environment where corporate greed trumped client interests. Sarah Halzack in the Washington Post -- 3/15/12

Sacramento Christian congregation to celebrate Easter at Islamic Center -- Spiritual Life Center of Sacramento, whose lease expires March 31 at a downtown church, will be conducting Easter services at the Sacramento Area League of Muslims (SALAM) property near American River College. Bill Lindelof in the Sacramento Bee -- 3/15/12

   POTUS 44

Obama, Cameron stress trust, admiration -- President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron spent Wednesday evening pouring praise on each other in front of a state dinner crowd of celebrities, politicians, business leaders, journalists and major campaign donors of the president. JENNIFER EPSTEIN Politico -- 3/15/12


Romney attack ads damaging his approval rating -- Mitt Romney has bigger problems than finishing third in two Republican primaries in the Deep South this week. His aggressive campaign style may be winning him the GOP delegate race, but it is making voters think less of him. Joe Garofoli in the San Francisco Chronicle -- 3/15/12

Saunders: Obama dribbles from mandate to man date -- In the heat of the Democrats' "We {heart} Women" campaign, the White House took a detour to testosterone land Tuesday. Debra J. Saunders in the San Francisco Chronicle -- 3/15/12

Swing voters: Diverse, misunderstood and crucial in 2012 -- Far from a uniform band of centrists, swing voters include anti-corporate pacifists, tea party activists and many shades of political gray in between. David Lauter in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 3/15/12

How Mitt Romney can make over his campaign -- Despite calls from pundits and his supporters alike to “let Mitt be Mitt,” it’s become pretty clear that on the campaign trail these days, Mitt already is being Mitt. And that’s part of the problem. MAGGIE HABERMAN Politico -- 3/15/12