* Updates Since Early This Morning

Kinde Durkee likely to plead guilty in $8M embezzlement case -- Kinde Durkee, the California political operative at the heart of a major embezzlement scandal, is expected to plead guilty later this week to stealing more than $8 million from her clients, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein and other California Democrats, according to sources close to the case. JOHN BRESNAHAN and JONATHAN ALLEN Politico JULIET WILLIAMS Associated Press -- 3/28/12

GOP sees four Democrat-held Cal congressional seats as winnable -- A new appraisal by the National Republican Congressional Committee claims that state-by-state redistricting has enhanced GOP chances of retaining control of Congress by making 16 seats held by Democrats vulnerable, including four in California. Dan Walters SacBee Capitol Alert -- 3/28/12

lawmaker drops proposal to ban food trucks near schools -- Faced with backlash from food-lovers and cooks, Assemblyman Bill Monning (D-Carmel) said Wednesday he is dropping a proposal to ban food trucks from close proximity to schools. Patrick McGreevy LA Times PolitiCal$ Jim Sanders SacBee Capitol Alert -- 3/28/12

Pepper-spray report can be released without names -- The University of California can release a report on the pepper-spraying of student demonstrators by UC Davis police last fall, but must first remove the names of most officers, a judge ruled Wednesday. TERENCE CHEA Associated Press -- 3/28/12

Frank McCourt's Dodger Parking Lot -- Is it OK if Frank still co-owns the vast acres encircling Dodger Stadium? David Futch LA Weekly -- 3/28/12

Rick Santorum arrives in CA tomorrow. So where’s the cash coming from? -- Rick Santorum is coming to California for a fundraiser Thursday in lovely Alamo (Contra Costa County) and a late afternoon trip to the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield. It’s partially a Reagan homage…the Gipper really dug jelly beans, remember. There’s a portrait of Dutch done in jellies at the factory. Joe Garofoli Chronicle Politics -- 3/28/12

California economic outlook brightens a bit, new study says -- The economic outlook for California has perked up and the state should escape double-digit jobless levels more quickly than previously thought, researchers said Wednesday. George Avalos in the Contra Costa Times -- 3/28/12

Sacramento's economic recovery one of weakest in the nation, think tank says -- The report by the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program says the Sacramento region was among the 20 weakest performers in the country in the fourth quarter of 2011. The report focused on the 100 largest metro areas. Dale Kasler in the Sacramento Bee -- 3/28/12

Bill would overhaul california rest stops -- Today’s road-weary drivers are resigned to functional highway rest stops that offer the requisite bathrooms, basic vending machines and picnic tables. But the rest stop of the future could reel in more motorists for longer breaks by offering amenities like made-to-order lattes, sandwiches and even windshield wipers. Michael Gardner UT San Diego -- 3/28/12

Committee formed to back California candidates with 'courage' -- One of several new independent committees hoping to influence elections for the California Legislature under the state's new top-two primary system is stepping up its efforts. Torey Van Oot SacBee Capitol Alert -- 3/28/12

California Gov. Jerry Brown calling his plan a 'Millionaires' Tax' -- When Gov. Jerry Brown reached a tax compromise with the California Federation of Teachers and liberal activists, apparently their "Millionaires' Tax" slogan was included in the deal. Kevin Yamamura SacBee Capitol Alert -- 3/28/12

APNewsBreak: Fletcher bolts GOP in San Diego -- California Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher says he's leaving the Republican Party to become an independent barely two months before voters in the nation's eighth-largest city decide whether to elect him mayor. ELLIOT SPAGAT Associated Press Anthony York LA Times PolitiCal$ -- 3/28/12

Fox: Former Speaker Ignores his own Intent on CARB Fees -- The reasoning and intent behind a law is of upmost importance especially when courts attempt to interpret legislative actions. Yet, the Air Resources Board and even the bill’s author, Former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, are ignoring the clear intent of “fee” revenue raised under the provisions of AB 32, the 2006 bill to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Joel Fox Fox & Hounds -- 3/28/12

Justices poised to strike down entire healthcare law -- The Supreme Court's conservative justices said Wednesday they are prepared to strike down President Obama’s healthcare law entirely. David G. Savage in the Los Angeles Times$ JOSH GERSTEIN and CARRIE BUDOFF BROWN Politico -- 3/28/12

State senator pushes bill on breast cancer screening -- State Sen. Joseph Simitian (D-Palo Alto) is resurrecting a bill to strengthen breast cancer screenings after it was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year. Chris Megerian LA Times PolitiCal$ -- 3/28/12

San Jose startup Vocera goes public, shares soar in heavy trading -- Vocera, a San Jose company that provides mobile communications software for health care providers, enjoyed a successful debut Wednesday on Wall Street after raking in almost $100 million in its initial public offering. Jeremy C. Owens in the San Jose Mercury -- 3/28/12

Richmond Begins Grand Re-Opening of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries -- The embattled City of Richmond used to be a hub of the world's finest wine - until alcohol prohibition choked that off. Almost a century later, the city's fine medical cannabis seemed like it would be next to succumb. David Downs East Bay Express -- 3/28/12

California lawmakers to don hoodies to protest Trayvon Martin case -- California lawmakers plan to wear hoodies Thursday to protest the killing of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed Florida teenager who was shot to death last month by a neighborhood watch volunteer. Michael J. Mishak LA Times PolitiCal$ -- 3/28/12

 

   California Policy and Politics This Morning

California Democratic treasurer perpetrated $7M fraud -- Democratic campaign treasurer Kinde Durkee defrauded at least 50 candidates, officeholders and political organizations out of $7 million in a scheme that dates back more than a decade, according to a court filing made Tuesday by federal prosecutors. DON THOMPSON, TOM VERDIN Associated Press Torey Van Oot SacBee Capitol Alert Patrick McGreevy and Richard Simon LA Times PolitiCal$ -- 3/28/12

Magic Johnson group to buy Dodgers for record $2B -- A group that includes former Lakers star Magic Johnson and longtime baseball executive Stan Kasten agreed Tuesday night to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers from Frank McCourt for a record $2 billion. RONALD BLUM Associated Press J.P. Hoornstra in the Los Angeles Daily News Bill Shaikin and David Wharton in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 3/28/12

Prop. 8 group pitted blacks, Latinos against gays -- A group that was instrumental in passing California's ban on same-sex marriage in 2008 tried to pit African Americans and Latinos against gays and lesbians in its winning campaign to ban such marriages in Maine the following year, according to internal documents made public Tuesday. Carolyn Lochhead in the San Francisco Chronicle -- 3/28/12

Water bond teeters, may be pulled from 2012 ballot -- The next Sierra snowpack reading isn't until Monday. But a recent comment by one of California's top political leaders is having a much larger impact on the state's water outlook than any measurement in the snow. Paul Rogers in the San Jose Mercury -- 3/28/12

California courts scrap $2 billion tech project -- Faced with mounting criticism about the cost, the state Judicial Council, the policy arm of the courts, on Tuesday voted to pull the plug on a $2 billion computer upgrade for California's 58 trial courts. Howard Mintz in the Contra Costa Times Patrick McGreevy LA Times PolitiCal$ Dan Walters SacBee Capitol Alert -- 3/28/12

Judge tentatively rules for California in school funding suit -- In a court battle that could shape how schools are funded, a judge tentatively ruled Tuesday that California lawmakers can reduce education funding by diverting state revenues into new pots of money. Kevin Yamamura SacBee Capitol Alert Chris Megerian LA Times PolitiCal$ -- 3/28/12

California Assembly Speaker John A. Perez drums up support for "middle-class scholarship" plan -- Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez is drumming up public support for legislation touted as a billion-dollar relief plan for college students that is sure to be a Democratic centerpiece this year. Jim Sanders in the Sacramento Bee -- 3/28/12

Walters: Legislative mischief on 'trailer bills' becomes easier -- Two years ago, when unions and Democratic politicians sponsored a ballot measure to reduce the required legislative vote on the state budget from two-thirds to a simple majority, this column and others raised the possibility of ancillary mischief. Dan Walters in the Sacramento Bee -- 3/28/12

Herdt: Legislators ignore a low-hanging tax -- Here's one thing that wouldn't change if California voters June 5 approve the $1 per pack increase in cigarette taxes embodied in Proposition 29: Smokers in Kingman, Ariz., could still drive over to Needles and pick up a carton of Camels and pay less in taxes than they would have paid in Arizona. Timm Herdt in the Ventura Star -- 3/28/12

State teachers union backs Republican for Assembly seat -- The California Teachers Assn., traditionally a big backer of Democratic candidates, has endorsed a Republican for an open Assembly seat in a GOP stronghold, the organization has confirmed. Jean Merl LA Times PolitiCal$ -- 3/28/12

Local officials balk at bill to require them to spend more on transit -- When the Legislature enacted a law three years ago requiring that all large counties spend their entire share of Transportation Development Act money on transit services, it gave Ventura County a pass. Timm Herdt in the Ventura Star -- 3/28/12

In state's biggest verdicts, it’s one big business suing another -- In the debate over California’s sour economy, complaints about out-of-control lawsuits and astronomical jury verdicts often arise. Lance Williams California Watch -- 3/28/12

Bill approved by state Senate committee would halt Metropolitan Transportation Commission move until audit is complete -- A state Senate committee on Tuesday unanimously approved a bill to stop a regional transit agency from spending any more public money on its plans to renovate its new headquarters in San Francisco until a state audit is completed. Rick Hurd in the Contra Costa Times -- 3/28/12

State Senate committee to hold hearing on Caltrans' Bay Bridge review panel -- The move came in response to a Bee investigation Sunday that detailed conflicts of interest and secrecy involving an agency panel that recently praised Caltrans construction oversight of the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge eastern span, and declared the structure safe and sound. Charles Piller in the Sacramento Bee -- 3/28/12

PG&E ran 3 sections of blast line above legal limit -- Pacific Gas and Electric Co. was operating at least three segments of the natural-gas pipeline that ran through San Bruno at illegally high pressures before the 2010 explosion that killed eight people, a Chronicle analysis of the company's records shows. Jaxon Van Derbeken in the San Francisco Chronicle -- 3/28/12

Feds: California nuke plant to remain shut for probe -- The troubled San Onofre nuclear plant in Southern California will remain shut down while investigators try to solve a mystery inside its massive generators — the rapid decay of tubing that carries radioactive water, federal regulators said Tuesday. MICHAEL R. BLOOD Associated Press Abby Sewell LA Times PolitiCal$ MICHAEL R. BLOOD Associated Press -- 3/28/12

Mirkarimi asks court to give him his job back -- Ross Mirkarimi, who was suspended as sheriff without pay a week ago, petitioned the court Tuesday to reinstate him - the latest twist in a political and legal saga that began more than two months ago. Rachel Gordon in the San Francisco Chronicle -- 3/28/12

Possible conflict seen in oversight of Coliseum -- Consulting payments to Oakland City Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente by a group tied to former state-senator-turned-lobbyist Don Perata are raising questions about a possible conflict of interest in the awarding of a $7 million contract to run the Oakland Coliseum complex. Phillip Matier, Andrew Ross in the San Francisco Chronicle -- 3/28/12

L.A. County sheriff's officials may have overpaid for work, equipment -- Los Angeles County sheriff's officials overpaid a private contractor nearly $11 million for work that wasn't needed and aircraft equipment they already had, according to allegations in a sheriff's memo obtained by The Times. Robert Faturechi in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 3/28/12

States file challenge to Arizona immigration law -- California Attorney General Kamala Harris has joined officials from 10 other states in asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Arizona's immigration law, saying the law exceeds state authority, conflicts with national policy and would drive illegal immigrants into other states. Bob Egelko in the San Francisco Chronicle -- 3/28/12

Bay Citizen, Center for Investigative Reporting to Merge -- The Bay Citizen on Tuesday enters the second phase of its young life, surrendering its independence in exchange for a partnership with an older, more established journalistic entity as its parent organization merges with the Center for Investigative Reporting. DAN FOST Bay Citizen -- 3/28/12

Ross: CalBuzz: Budget Maven Ross Leaving CA with Sadness, Hope -- I have often described myself as profoundly Californian, so it is with some degree of trepidation that I prepare to head east in search of new challenges after nearly two rewarding decades heading the California Budget Project (CBP). Some might ask whether two plus decades of examining California’s budget isn’t enough challenge for one lifetime. Jean Ross CalBuzz -- 3/28/12

   Economy - Jobs

State jobs panel not doing its job, auditor says -- A state board charged with helping the unemployed find jobs and providing vocational training hasn't complied with state and federal laws and has failed to develop a required strategic workforce plan for California, according to the state auditor's office. Marc Lifsher in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 3/28/12

California's economy to grow slowly, UCLA experts say -- Steady but unspectacular – that's the economic forecast for California from the experts at UCLA. Dale Kasler in the Sacramento Bee -- 3/28/12

California unemployment predicted to stay high until 2016 -- But economists at the UCLA Anderson Forecast say the state's labor market is on the mend and likely to heal faster than the nation's as a whole. Ricardo Lopez in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 3/28/12

Lawmaker wants to bar bosses from demanding Facebook, Twitter data -- A California lawmaker wants to make it harder for employers to snoop around job applicants’ Facebook pages, saying it is an unwarranted invasion of privacy. Patrick McGreevy LA Times PolitiCal$ Josh Richman Political Blotter -- 3/28/12

Skid row street population surges back in Los Angeles -- A city initiative had helped to reduce the numbers and clean up the sidewalks, but the weak economy and other factors have reversed the trend. Alexandra Zavis in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 3/28/12

   Taxes - Fees

Sacramento City Council approves water, sewer rate increases -- By 7-2 vote, the City Council on Tuesday night approved a request from the city Utilities Department to impose three years of double-digit rate hikes that will raise the average household's monthly tab from $49 to $68 by 2014. Tony Bizjak in the Sacramento Bee -- 3/28/12

   Education

UC president to act on executive pension demand -- University of California President Mark Yudof, who spoke out last year against a threatened lawsuit by 36 executives demanding fatter pensions for UC's best-paid employees, will ask the regents on Thursday to rescind the 13-year-old policy that began it all. Nanette Asimov in the San Francisco Chronicle -- 3/28/12

Bill would ensure free meals for needy charter school students -- At the Blue Oak School in Chico, where 60 percent of the charter school's student body comes from low-income households, it’s a source of school pride that the soft tacos and chicken pot pies served at lunch are made from organic and locally sourced ingredients. Bernice Yeung California Watch -- 3/28/12

Bringing order to Common Core -- Classroom teachers, school administrators, a former state superintendent of public instruction, and two legislators will comprise the new Instructional Quality Commission, which will be the eyes and ears for the State Board of Education on the Common Core standards and will help guide the daunting effort to implement them over the next three-plus years. John Fensterwald educatedguess -- 3/28/12

School construction money running dry, legislative revisions considered -- The State Allocation Board, charged with overseeing school construction projects, has been wresting for months over the fate of the School Facility Program, knowing that money in its various funds – derived from statewide, voter-approved bonds – will run out this year. Kimberly Beltran SI&A Cabinet Report -- 3/28/12

Oakland police chief: Early education key to crime prevention -- Law enforcement leaders say they fear that to balance the budget, California lawmakers will weaken a powerful crime prevention tool: preschool. Katy Murphy in the Oakland Tribune -- 3/28/12

Lopez: For a classmate in need, a lesson in generosity and community -- Fairfax High students come to the aid of Jose Chojolan, a junior who became paralyzed after suffering a blood clot. Steve Lopez in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 3/28/12

   Health Care

Weintraub: Justice Kennedy and the mandate -- The future of America’s health care system could be decided by Anthony Kennedy, the Supreme Court justice from California who has become the court’s all-important swing vote. Daniel Weintraub HealthyCal.org -- 3/28/12

For California, Supreme Court health reform decisions put billions on line -- One Kaiser Family Foundation estimate shows that if the law stands, California may see an additional $45 billion to $55 billion in federal funds from 2014 to 2019. Christina Jewett California Watch -- 3/28/12

Where Do They Go Now? -- As a child, Lyudmia Shnaydman survived the horrors of World War II, though she lost her entire family. As an older adult she suffers from no fewer than four serious, chronic health problems. Now the state of California is giving her nightmares. Matt Perry HealthyCal.org -- 3/28/12

Doctors: Reform means less pay, more patients -- Doctors in the Inland Empire say they are bracing for when they must handle more patients and potentially less reimbursement. Under the Affordable Health Care Act, which takes full effect in 2014, medical insurance would be a requirement, which would translate into a spike in new patients for providers. Neil Nisperos in the Inland Daily Bulletin -- 3/28/12

   Environment

Feinstein sees Hetch Hetchy in its natural state - in a painting -- Hope springs eternal. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, it appears, deeply appreciates Hetch Hetchy Valley in its natural state -- at least in a painting. Pia Lopez in the Sacramento Bee -- 3/28/12

   Occupy

Stabbings at SF Occupy won't change city's stance on protesters, Mayor Ed Lee says -- San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said Tuesday there is no plan to alter the city's policy toward Occupy protesters in the wake of stabbings on two consecutive nights at an encampment along Market Street. The item is in the Contra Costa Times -- 3/28/12

   Immigration

San Francisco suspect not alone in dodging deportation -- Kestutis Zadvydas was the opposite of what most people would envision as an ideal immigrant to the United States. He was a convicted thief and cocaine dealer, and U.S. officials ordered him deported in 1994 to his native Germany. But Zadvydas was never sent home. Kevin Fagan in the San Francisco Chronicle -- 3/28/12

Slayings of 5 in San Francisco cited to back immigrant detention bill -- The suspect is from Vietnam and has a record. A House bill would let the government hold 'as long as necessary' immigrants deemed to be criminals who can't be deported to their native countries. Matt Stevens in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 3/28/12

Progreso Financiero founder leaves the immigrant loan specialist -- Founder James Gutierrez has stepped down as the head of Progreso Financiero, which makes small loans to immigrants by relying on their "moral collateral" and a secret scoring system for people with little or no credit histories. E. Scott Reckard in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 3/28/12

   Also..

Judge blocks importation of lethal-injection drug -- A federal judge on Tuesday blocked the importation of a drug used in executions on grounds the Food and Drug Administration ignored the law in allowing it into this country. Frederic J. Frommer Associated Press -- 3/28/12

LAPD chief Charlie Beck defends handling of profiling claims -- For years, the Los Angeles Police Department has fielded several hundred complaints a year from minorities who said they were unfairly targeted for traffic stops and arrests because of their skin color. Over that time internal investigations brought one result: No wrongdoing by police. Until now. Greg Risling Associated Press -- 3/28/12

Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan under fire -- Berkeley's police chief told an officer to look up a reporter's contact information on department databases before ordering her to his home to push for changes in a story related to a slaying, according to records and interviews Tuesday. Henry K. Lee in the San Francisco Chronicle -- 3/28/12

   POTUS 44

Outside groups pivot to Obama -- Public attention may still be trained on the Republican presidential primary, but prominent conservative groups are transitioning toward Democrats, already spending big money on ads attacking President Barack Obama. DAVE LEVINTHAL Politico -- 3/28/12

   Beltway

John Roberts Court on trial -- John Roberts is having his Bush v. Gore moment. If the wily chief justice felt squeamish about leading the Supreme Court into an election-year political maelstrom, that was nowhere on display Tuesday, when the Roberts-led conservative majority signaled its collective skepticism, even hostility, for President Barack Obama’s health care law. GLENN THRUSH Politico -- 3/28/12

Exclusive: Newt Gingrich cuts staff, aims at Tampa -- Newt Gingrich is cutting back his campaign schedule, will lay off about a third of his cash-strapped campaign’s full-time staff, and has replaced his manager as part of what aides are calling a “big-choice convention” strategy, communications director Joe DeSantis told POLITICO. MIKE ALLEN and GINGER GIBSON Politico -- 3/28/12

Romney, on Leno, cracks wise -- just a little -- On Jay Leno's "Tonight Show," Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney was mostly business — though he slipped in a few jokes at the expense of his host and his main political opponent. KASIE HUNT Associated Press -- 3/28/12

Romney's fundraisers are quietly amassing millions -- Mitt Romney's presidential fundraising operation dwarfs those of his Republican rivals, with more than $75 million already in donations. It also operates mysteriously at times, withholding the names of Romney's major fundraisers who have helped amass much of its money. Richard Lardner and Stephen Braun Associated Press -- 3/28/12

Romney rolls out California leadership team -- Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, completing a campaigning and fundraising swing through California today, announced his leadership team for the Golden State. Josh Richman Political Blotter -- 3/28/12

Mitt Romney's 4-car fantasy home -- At Mitt Romney’s proposed California beach house, the cars will have their own separate elevator. There’s also a planned outdoor shower and a 3,600-square foot basement — a room with more floor space than the existing home’s entire living quarters. REID J. EPSTEIN Politico -- 3/28/12