Updates since early This Morning

Santorum wins AL, MS in GOP fight for the South -- Rick Santorum has swept the GOP's fight for the South, winning Alabama and Mississippi. With 71 percent of the vote counted in Alabama, Santorum had 35 percent, Newt Gingrich had 30 percent and Mitt Romney had 28 percent. LAURIE KELLMAN Associated Press Michael A. Memoli in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 3/13/12

Met delays water rate hike opposed by San Diego -- The Metropolitan Water District Tuesday postponed final action on a proposed rate increase, but the vote belied strained tensions between the wholesaler and the San Diego County Water Authority. Michael Gardner UT San Diego -- 3/13/12

San Francisco Businesses Using Legal Loophole to Skimp on Health Care Cost -- Half of companies using health reimbursement plans retained 90 percent of funds allocated. BARBARA GRADY Bay Citizen -- 3/13/12

California teachers union pushed pollster to drop Jerry Brown's tax rival -- When wealthy civil rights attorney Molly Munger began drawing up a proposed tax hike to fund education last fall, she partly relied on polls by The Mellman Group, a well-known D.C. polling firm that regularly worked for advocates of increased funding for California public schools. Nicholas Riccardi LA Times PolitiCal$ -- 3/13/12

Lawmakers reject Gov. Brown's call to repeal animal shelter law -- Since Gov. Jerry Brown unveiled his state spending plan in January, California lawmakers have rejected some of the most controversial budget cuts to popular programs: welfare, higher education and kindergarten. On Tuesday, they added animal shelters to the list. Michael J. Mishak in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 3/13/12

Mayor Won't Meet with Mirkarimi, For Now -- While San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi on Monday ended the domestic violence case against him by pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge, Mayor Ed Lee said today the sheriff's political future is anything but settled. The item is in Bay Citizen -- 3/13/12

Republicans unveil bill package targeting misbehaving teachers -- Sparked by the case of a Los Angeles elementary school teacher accused of lewd conduct, Assembly and Senate Republicans unveiled a package of legislation today designed to hasten the removal of misbehaving teachers. Jim Sanders SacBee Capitol Alert Patrick McGreevy LA Times PolitiCal$ -- 3/13/12

Transitional kindergarten could be spared budget cuts -- Another one of Gov. Jerry Brown's budget proposals has run aground in the Assembly. Chris Megerian LA Times PolitiCal$ -- 3/13/12

What split? ... School groups stress unity on some key issues -- At a time when California education groups are split on which tax measure to support in November, their leaders joined forces Tuesday to emphasize unity on bolstering school funding and avoiding deeper cuts. Jim Sanders SacBee Capitol Alert -- 3/13/12

UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau to retire at end of 2012 -- UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau, who has led that prestigious campus for nearly eight years through a period of budget cuts, Nobel Prizes and campus protests, announced Tuesday that he would retire on Dec. 31. Larry Gordon LA Times PolitiCal$ -- 3/13/12

Behind the Sheriff's Guilty Plea -- While Ross Mirkarimi's attorneys were publicly battling to keep jurors from seeing a key piece of evidence against him, they had privately begun discussions with the San Francisco sheriff last week about considering a plea agreement, multiple sources told The Bay Citizen. TREY BUNDY Bay Citizen -- 3/13/12

Fox: What Voters Understand: Going after Business is First Step in Dismantling Prop 13 -- San Francisco Assemblyman Tom Ammiano wants to clarify change of ownership rules when business property changes hands and raise more tax revenue from businesses. But, what the public hears behind all this rhetoric is the chipping away of Prop 13’s taxpayer protections. Joel Fox Fox & Hounds -- 3/13/12

Michael Reagan to chair initiative drive for part-time Legislature -- Money remains a significant obstacle to the campaign, apparently. Qualifying a ballot measure typically requires seven-figure sums, but the campaign for a part-time Legislature has reported collecting only about $174,000. Jim Sanders SacBee Capitol Alert -- 3/13/12

Exit exam results show passage improves but achievement gap remains -- Results from a biennial report on California High School Exit Exam show the percentage of students passing on the first try continues to grow, but there remains a growing gap separating minority subgroups, English learners and economically disadvantaged students from their more successful counterparts in the mainstream. Tom Chorneau SI&A Cabinet Report -- 3/13/12

New report finds low college attendance by California Latinos -- While California's Latino population is growing, and is likely to become the state's largest ethnic group within a few years, only a tiny percentage of Latinos are seeking and receiving college educations, according to a new data compilation by the Campaign for College Opportunity. Dan Walters SacBee Capitol Alert -- 3/13/12

LA Schools Scandal Prompts Rare Political Alliance -- Capitol Republicans back Mayor Villaraigosa's call to crack down on teacher misconduct. Kevin Riggs KNBC Prop Zero -- 3/13/12

 

   California Policy and Politics This Morning

CalPERS could boost annual California pension bill by $425 million -- The state's cost of supporting CalPERS could jump by as much as $425 million in the next fiscal year, generating more political heat on public pensions at a time of massive budget deficits. Dale Kasler in the Sacramento Bee -- 3/13/12

Cash flow dips but California's finances secure, controller says -- California issued more tax refunds than expected in February, the likely reason that revenues fell $146 million short of estimates, the state controller said Monday. Chris Megerian LA Times PolitiCal$ -- 3/13/12

Report calls PG&E records on pipelines "a mess" -- Records of thousands of miles of PG&E's high-pressure gas transmission lines are so incomplete that it is impossible to know whether substandard pipe like the one that exploded in San Bruno more than 50 years after its installation lurks elsewhere, according to one of two reports released by regulators late Monday. Mike Taugher in the Contra Costa Times -- 3/13/12

San Bruno OKs $70 million settlement from PG&E -- The city of San Bruno agreed Monday to accept $70 million from Pacific Gas and Electric Co. as a settlement for the suffering caused by the September 2010 explosion of a natural gas pipeline in a residential neighborhood. Demian Bulwa in the San Francisco Chronicle -- 3/13/12

Bankruptcy not ruled out to solve Fresno's financial crisis -- Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin on Monday warned that the city is in "severe financial stress" that demands immediate action and presented a 10-year plan calling for more concessions from city workers. George Hostetter and Jim Guy in the Fresno Bee -- 3/13/12

GOP backers of Citizens United ruling want to ban special-interest money -- The Lincoln Club of Orange County had a big hand in the landmark Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which opened the floodgate of special-interest money in presidential politics. Lance Williams California Watch -- 3/13/12

Villaraigosa declines to back any of three competing tax initiatives -- Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Monday declined to back any of the three income tax initiatives competing for space on the November ballot, saying that efforts to raise taxes on top earners lead to too much volatility in state revenue and compound California's budget problems. Nicholas Riccardi LA Times PolitiCal$ -- 3/12/12

Chamber takes no position on Gov. Jerry Brown's tax plan; opposes rivals -- The California Chamber of Commerce announced its opposition today to two of Gov. Jerry Brown's tax rivals but remained silent on the governor's own plan, tacitly giving his proposal a boost as he tries to thin the field. Kevin Yamamura SacBee Capitol Alert -- 3/12/12

Brown seeks tax-hike support from police chiefs -- Gov. Jerry Brown appealed Monday to chiefs of police for support of his November tax initiative, even as he conceded the ballot likely will be crowded with tax proposals. Don Thompson Associated Press -- 3/12/12

Villaraigosa has Prop. 13 in his sights -- Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa once again jumped on the third rail of California politics on Monday, telling lawmakers that businesses are unfairly exploiting Proposition 13, the constitutional amendment limiting property tax increases. Chris Megerian LA Times PolitiCal$ -- 3/12/12

Walters: Proposition 13's 'third rail of politics' touched in Capitol -- Proposition 13, the landmark property tax limit voters enacted 34 years ago, has been termed the "third rail" of California politics – to touch it is to commit political suicide. Dan Walters in the Sacramento Bee -- 3/13/12

Fleischman's FlashReport is little-read but much-feared -- The website is fiercely conservative, with a small but influential readership. It works to keep California Republican politicians in line. James Rainey in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 3/13/12

Suit: NASA specialist axed over intelligent design -- A computer specialist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is going to court over allegations that he was wrongfully terminated because of his belief in intelligent design. GILLIAN FLACCUS Associated Press -- 3/12/12

Durkee case prompts scrutiny of banking regulations -- The small bank in which Democratic fiscal agent Kinde Durkee handled scores of campaign accounts is drawing nearly as much attention as Durkee herself, who has been accused in federal court of fraud and misappropriating her clients’ funds. John Howard Capitol Weekly -- 3/12/12

Mirkarimi pleads guilty to misdemeanor -- The criminal case against San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi is winding down, but the political case against him may be only beginning. Rachel Gordon in the San Francisco Chronicle -- 3/13/12

Saunders: Ross Mirkarimi should tell San Francisco what happened -- Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi agreed to a plea bargain on a misdemeanor domestic violence and two related charges that began with a New Year's Day argument during which Mirkarimi allegedly bruised his wife's arm. Debra J. Saunders in the San Francisco Chronicle -- 3/13/12

Wife of San Francisco sheriff said plea is in 'everyone's best interests' -- The wife of San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi said she is "relieved and hopeful" that her life can get back to normal now that her husband has agreed to a plea bargain, said Paula Canny, Lopez's attorney. Maria L. La Ganga in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 3/13/12

Miller over Dutton -- The California Republican Party has endorsed Rep. Gary Miller in what some observers are calling one of the most competitive local primary races on June 5. Neil Nisperos in the San Bernardino Sun -- 3/13/12

Dutton says "Washington gang" responsible for GOP's Miller endorsement -- State Sen. Bob Dutton said Monday that he was disappointed, but not surprised, by the California Republican Party's endorsement of Rep. Gary Miller for San Bernardino County's 31st Congressional District. Jim Miller in the Riverside Press -- 3/13/12

Calvert talks contraception, GOP primary -- The national debate over health insurance and contraception is "not helpful" to Republicans, U.S. Rep. Ken Calvert said Monday. JEFF HORSEMAN in the Riverside Press -- 3/13/12

It's hard to keep politics out of Assembly budget -- Efforts to keep partisanship out of state Assembly budgets have had the exact opposite effect, according to political observers. Joe Piasecki in the Pasadena Sun -- 3/12/12

Assembly budgets shape discipline, political goals -- Each of the 80 members of the California State Assembly gets one vote, but parity ends where the budget ledger begins, according to Assembly records. When it comes to who gets what in the $121 million economy of the Assembly, the speaker calls the shots. Joe Piasecki in the Pasadena Sun -- 3/12/12

A look inside 'dense' state Assembly budget -- Budgets for members of the California Assembly are more art than science. Lawmakers draw money through multiple channels and can use it for purposes other than those that initially show up on the books. Joe Piasecki in the Pasadena Sun -- 3/12/12

   Economy - Jobs

Government formally files $25-billion foreclosure settlement -- State and federal officials on Monday formally filed the $25-billion settlement with the nation's biggest mortgage servicers. Jim Puzzanghera in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 3/13/12

Rising rents may signal a housing market recovery -- Renters are paying more because the foreclosure crisis is adding to their ranks, which increases demand for apartments. Orange County has seen the biggest rent increase in the Southland: 13.2% in the last year. Alejandro Lazo in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 3/13/12

Survey: Upturn predicted for L.A. job market -- The next three months will bring Los Angeles County its strongest job market since the Great Recession, according to a survey released today. Gregory J. Wilcox in the Los Angeles Daily News -- 3/13/12

US Senate to vote on timber payments for rural schools, counties -- The U.S. Senate is expected to vote as early as today on continuing a decade-old program that compensates rural counties and schools for declining timber revenue. Joanna Lin California Watch -- 3/13/12

First all-electric Coda sedan rolls off assembly line in Benicia -- The first all-electric Coda sedan rolled off the assembly line here Monday, marking a big day for the privately held company and the city. Coda, which is based in Los Angeles, manufactures most of the vehicle's battery system and body in China, thanks to a joint venture with Chinese battery maker Lishen. Dana Hull in the Contra Costa Times -- 3/13/12

California small-business survey has bright spots amid gloom -- California's small-business owners worry about the economy, regulatory burdens and taxes, but they're also concerned about the deteriorating quality of public education and crumbling roads and other public works. Marc Lifsher in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 3/13/12

High-speed train stops in Mountain View for key hearing -- The state's high-speed train battle makes a pivotal stop in Silicon Valley on Tuesday night, with hundreds of residents expected to join key Democratic legislators, independent analysts and project officials to vet the plan. Mike Rosenberg in the San Jose Mercury -- 3/13/12

   Education

LAUSD trio lobbies to change laws, policies for teacher misconduct cases -- Six weeks after the molestation scandal broke at Miramonte Elementary, three LAUSD board members called Monday for changes in state laws and district policies to make it easier to fire employees in cases of sexual misconduct. Barbara Jones in the Los Angeles Daily News -- 3/13/12

Fensterwald: Thumbs down for finance reform -- The Education Coalition, the powerful alliance of groups representing school employees, districts, and parents, has panned Gov. Jerry Brown’s sweeping proposal for school finance reform and implied that he should abandon the push for it this year. Their disapproval makes it unlikely Brown will succeed if he persists. John Fensterwald educatedguess -- 3/13/12

Kini: A student’s plea: Schools need more money – but make sure it gets to us -- M’Kala Payton, a junior at Fremont High in Oakland, has seen her teachers set rat traps in her school and throw away the corpses. Her football team plays on a field that is only 90 yards long. She is learning videography on an outdated camera that takes cassette tapes – and that’s at a so-called specialized “media academy.” Tara Kini TopEd -- 3/13/12

Baron: Funding kindergarten for all 4-years olds -- If not for its rarity, the pushmi-pullyu of Dr. Dolittle stories might best represent the tangled political narrative surrounding California’s Transitional Kindergarten program. Kathryn Baron TopEd -- 3/13/12

Flurry of bills on school discipline introduced in Legislature -- Against the backdrop of a recent federal report showing African American students being disproportionately suspended or expelled from California schools, a flurry of bills have been introduced in the state Legislature over the past several weeks to reform California’s extensive set of laws governing school discipline. Louis Freedberg and Sue Frey EdSource -- 3/13/12

Tea Party group effort would take gay history out of school books -- The Redlands Tea Party Patriots are working to collect signatures from residents to help repeal the FAIR Education Act (Senate Bill 48). The act amends the Education Code to require schools across the state to integrate factual information about social movements, current events and the history of people with disabilities and those from the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgendered community into existing social studies lessons. Kristina Hernandez in the San Bernardino Sun -- 3/13/12

Hiltzik: Education expert gives Education Secretary Duncan an F -- Last month, I graded Education Secretary Arne Duncan with an F for his fatuous hyping of computers and other digital technology in the classroom despite the absence of evidence that they consistently enhance the learning experience. Michael Hiltzik in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 3/13/12

   Health Care

Governor proposes cuts to caregiver centers -- The cuts will touch the lives of women like Audrey, 77, who has relied on the Del Mar Caregiver Resource Center in Santa Cruz for the last five years. Melissa Flores HealthyCal.org -- 3/13/12

All red meat is bad for you, new study says -- Eating red meat — any amount and any type — appears to significantly increase the risk of premature death, according to a long-range study that examined the eating habits and health of more than 110,000 adults for more than 20 years. Eryn Brown in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 3/13/12

Battle escalates over ballot measure on health premiums -- California’s doctors, hospitals and insurance companies launched their campaign Monday against a proposed ballot measure seeking tighter regulation of health insurance rates and proponents quickly returned fire. Chad Terhune in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 3/13/12

   Environment

San Francisco's tallest skyscraper plans revamped -- The long-dormant proposal for a skyline-busting skyscraper next to the Transbay Terminal has come back to life - without some of the original flourishes but still aiming to be San Francisco's tallest tower. John King in the San Francisco Chronicle -- 3/13/12

Chorus frog carries killer fungus -- Biologists have discovered the Typhoid Mary of the frog world - a little green hopper that is spreading a deadly fungus disease to other frogs and amphibians in the Sierra while remaining largely immune to the infection itself. David Perlman in the San Francisco Chronicle -- 3/13/12

Sacramento group sues to pull beetle from endangered list -- A group of Sacramento-area property owners filed a federal lawsuit on Monday to force the government to remove a native beetle from the endangered species list. Matt Weiser in the Sacramento Bee -- 3/13/12

   Also..

California Supreme Court's daunting task: Unite pot-dispensary rulings -- A flurry of recent, conflicting decisions by state appellate courts on whether cities can ban marijuana stores or be forced to allow them is setting up a landmark review by the California Supreme Court. Peter Hecht in the Sacramento Bee -- 3/13/12

Senate hearing to examine police work at developmental centers -- Ten years ago, news stories about mishandled abuse cases led state officials to debate whether to overhaul a police force at California institutions for the severely developmentally disabled or dismantle it. The state did neither. Ryan Gabrielson California Watch -- 3/13/12

San Jose preparing to roll out new, free Wi-Fi network throughout downtown -- For years, San Jose has called itself the "Capital of Silicon Valley," and on Monday city officials hope to bolster that image by announcing a cutting-edge, free outdoor Wi-Fi network the city plans to have up and running in downtown this summer. Tracy Seipel in the San Jose Mercury -- 3/13/12

LAX 'Millennium Bomber's' 22-year sentence overturned as too lenient -- A federal appeals court on Monday overturned a 22-year prison sentenced for convicted "millennium bomber" Ahmed Ressam, calling it unreasonably lenient. Robert Jablon Associated Press -- 3/13/12

legislator proposes banning violent fans from pro sports games -- Take me out to the ballgame? Maybe not. California would become the first state to create a "Ban List" prohibiting violent fans from attending professional sports events anywhere in the state under newly proposed legislation. Jim Sanders in the Sacramento Bee -- 3/13/12

Richard Nixon's love letters to Pat reveal surprising romantic side -- Long before Richard Nixon rose to power and fell from grace, he was just another man in love. Gillian Flaccus Associated Press -- 3/13/12

   POTUS 44

Obama’s Rating Falls as Poll Reflects Volatility -- Despite improving job growth and an extended Republican primary fight dividing his would-be opponents, President Obama is heading into the general election season on treacherous political ground, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. JIM RUTENBERG and MARJORIE CONNELLY in the New York Times$ -- 3/13/12

   Beltway

Romney adopts Southern twang, samples catfish in Deep South -- First it was grits. Now it’s catfish. On the eve of the Mississippi and Alabama primaries, Mitt Romney showed how far he would go to bond with Southerners who might feel something less than a natural kinship with the famously stiff New England investment titan. Michael Finnegan in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 3/13/12