* Updates Since Early This Morning

Vargas blocks abortion bill -- San Diego Sen. Christine Kehoe’s abortion measure stalled Thursday, with politics along with personal philosophy influencing the outcome. Michael Gardner UT San Diego -- 4/26/12

Bill lets governor, local officials meet privately -- A bill that would allow the governor to attend closed-door meetings with city councils, boards of supervisors and other local elected bodies passed unanimously out of the state Assembly on Thursday. JUDY LIN Associated Press -- 4/26/12

California federal judge files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy -- Wright and his wife filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on Dec. 26 in Los Angeles, saying their assets worth more than $833,000 were being eclipsed by their liabilities totaling more than $895,000. Among their debts are $30,000 on a Citibank credit card and more than $17,000 owed to two department stores. Associated Press -- 4/26/12

California gov mulls change to lethal injection method -- Gov. Jerry Brown is ordering California prison officials to explore using a single drug for lethal injections instead of three, in an effort to restart long-stalled executions in the state. PAUL ELIAS Associated Press -- 4/26/12

Proposal for part-time Legislature won't be on November ballot -- A drive to convert the California Legislature to part-time won't make it onto the ballot this year. The campaign will continue to collect voter signatures, however, in hopes of placing the issue before voters in 2014, said Ted Costa of People's Advocate, a co-leader of the drive. Jim Sanders SacBee Capitol Alert -- 4/26/12

Governor signs bill extending pet license sales -- California came to the rescue Thursday of animal lovers who need more time to sell license plates to raise money to reduce pet overpopulation and cut euthanasia rates. SUE MANNING Associated Press -- 4/26/12

Assembly kills bill to require disclosure of member budgets -- Legislation to designate lawmakers' member-by-member budgets as public records, thus putting into state law a judge's ruling last year, was shelved quietly Thursday by an Assembly committee. Jim Sanders SacBee Capitol Alert -- 4/26/12

Ex California Rep. Diane Watson recovering after heart attack -- Former California Rep. Diane Watson is recovering from a heart attack she suffered last week, friends and former aides said. Torey Van Oot SacBee Capitol Alert -- 4/26/12

California bill on abortion procedure stalls in Senate committee -- A scaled-back version of a bill aimed at expanding access in California to an early abortion procedure stalled today in a key Senate committee. Senate Bill 1338, by Democratic Sen. Christine Kehoe, originally sought to allow nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives and physicians assistants to perform aspiration abortions, a suction technique that under current law only doctors can conduct. Torey Van Oot SacBee Capitol Alert -- 4/26/12

California's 'Three Strikes' overhaul measure turns in signatures -- A proposal to revise California's "Three Strikes" sentencing law appears headed for the November ballot. Torey Van Oot SacBee Capitol Alert Tracey Kaplan in the San Jose Mercury Michael J. Mishak LA Times PolitiCal$ -- 4/26/12

Nuclear analyst, Edison clash over San Onofre's next step -- Arnie Gundersen, a Vermont-based nuclear consultant for environmental group Friends of the Earth, says premature tube wear in the nuclear power plant’s 2-year-old steam generators should result in the generators being replaced, not fixed, with plant operator Southern California Edison footing the bill. Edison says it’s too soon to draw conclusions while an investigation is going on and that Gundersen lacks expertise. FRED SWEGLES in the Orange County Register -- 4/26/12

Obama healthcare reforms lead to $1.3 billion in insurance rebates -- U.S. consumers and businesses will receive an estimated $1.3 billion in rebates from insurance companies this year, according to a new study quantifying a key early benefit of the healthcare law that President Obama signed in 2010. Noam N. Levey in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 4/26/12

Zillow: Home values bottoming in most markets, including L.A. -- Need more evidence that the housing market may be rightsizing? Zillow Inc. said home values in March made their largest monthly jump since 2006 and will stop falling in most major metropolitan areas by the end of this year. Tiffany Hsu in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 4/26/12

ACLU, others help Marine who criticized Obama fight dismissal -- A Marine sergeant who criticized President Obama on Facebook is fighting to keep his position after he was told Wednesday that he is being dismissed from the service with an other-than-honorable discharge. Lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union and the conservative U.S. Justice Foundation said Gary Stein's 1st Amendment rights were being violated by the Marine Corps. Tony Perry in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 4/26/12

Dems, unions pushing new local government bankruptcy bill -- Although a new law to govern bankruptcy filings by local governments is just four months old, Democratic legislators and labor unions are lining up behind a major revision that local officials say would tilt the playing field. Dan Walters SacBee Capitol Alert -- 4/26/12

California retirement savings bill advances in the Senate -- Legislation to create a state retirement account program for private sector workers in California cleared a Senate committee on Wednesday. Torey Van Oot in the Sacramento Bee -- 4/26/12

Weak tax collections spur new budget fears -- Tax collections for April alone are running about $2 billion shy of the Brown administration’s fiscal forecast, and by the end of the fiscal year in June that gap could widen further, according to the Legislature’s nonpartisan budget adviser. John Howard Capitol Weekly -- 4/26/12

State could be $2 billion short of tax goal -- Hundreds of workers busily process taxpayers' checks, but the incoming funds may not be enough to cover California's bills. Chris Megerian in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 4/26/12

Hoffenblum: The Top Two Primary is Coming – Part 2 -- Last Monday I wrote that as many as 34 of the contested races in the June Open Primary could lead to a same party runoff in November: 8 in Congress, 4 in the state Senate, and as many as 22 in the state Assembly. (I have since added one additional assembly race, bringing the total number of possible races up to 35.) Allan Hoffenblum Fox & Hounds -- 4/26/12

Governor’s Initiative Benefits from — and Can Be Undercut by — Education Issue -- A first glance at the PPIC poll on education gives some hope to the governor for his proposed ballot measure. However, there are indications in the poll that the governor could be facing a rough road ahead to pass his initiative. Joel Fox Fox & Hounds -- 4/26/12

 

   California Policy and Politics This Morning

Analyst predicts state budget gap "a few billion dollars" worse -- With state revenues slowing to a trickle as the end of April draws near, the state's top fiscal analyst said late Wednesday that California could be "a few billion dollars" shy of Gov. Jerry Brown's budget projections through June 2013. Kevin Yamamura SacBee Capitol Alert -- 4/26/12

Poll shows slim majority favor governor's tax hike -- Gov. Jerry Brown says he is confident voters will approve his November tax initiative as a way to avoid further cuts to public schools, even though a new poll shows it has only a narrow margin of support. HANNAH DREIER Associated Press Dan Walters SacBee Capitol Alert Jill Tucker in the San Francisco Chronicle Michael Gardner UT San Diego -- 4/26/12

Poll: More back Brown’s tax plan than Munger’s -- Almost two-thirds of California’s likely voters favor raising income taxes for the state’s wealthiest residents to pay for public schools, but most oppose increasing the state sales tax for the same purpose, according to a new Public Policy Institute of California poll. Josh Richman Political Blotter -- 4/26/12

Judge affirms his ruling for Legislature in budget pay dispute -- In a win for lawmakers, Sacramento Superior Court Judge David I. Brown affirmed his decision today that Controller John Chiang cannot unilaterally block their pay if they submit a budget they consider balanced. Kevin Yamamura in the Sacramento Bee Chris Megerian in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 4/26/12

Garry South reveals secrets -- Sharp-tongued Democratic strategist Garry South has long specialized in behind-the-scenes skulduggery that has shaped decades of major political races in California - and the fortunes of many candidates. Carla Marinucci in the San Francisco Chronicle -- 4/26/12

Tobacco industry gearing up to take down California cigarette tax initiative -- In what is quickly turning into another high-stakes policy battle to be decided by California voters, tobacco giants Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds are forking over tens of millions of dollars to defeat a new tobacco tax on the June ballot. Steven Harmon in the Contra Costa Times -- 4/26/12

Skelton: Special-interest money and politics: the American way -- AT&T's massive spending in Sacramento is just one example of the pervasive pattern. And politicians who deny that donations influence their decisions insult our intelligence. George Skelton in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 4/26/12

TSA screeners allegedly let drug couriers through LAX for cash -- Authorities filed trafficking and bribery charges against four current and former TSA screeners, alleging they received cash bribes in exchange for turning a blind eye on drugs packed in suitcases. Victoria Kim in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 4/26/12

Mary Hayashi inquired about Nadia Lockyer's seat -- Fresh from admitting she shoplifted $2,450 of trendy clothes from Neiman Marcus, Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi appears to have her eye on a new job: Nadia Lockyer's just-vacated seat on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. Steven Harmon in the Contra Costa Times -- 4/26/12

Mad cow investigation leads to Tulare County dairy -- Federal inspectors have identified the dairy and were likely interviewing the dairy operator on Wednesday, said Larry Hawkins, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. He declined to name the dairy. Robert Rodriguez and Lewis Griswold in the Fresno Bee -- 4/26/12

Farmers at Ground Zero of Mad Cow Probe Grumble Over Image Taint -- Mike Correia and four other weathered men in blue jeans and soiled work boots gathered for coffee at a gas station outside Hanford, California. The farming center is where the fourth case of mad cow disease ever found in the U.S. has surfaced. The topic was the media. Michael B. Marois Bloomberg -- 4/26/12

PG&E employee who spied on activists had support of management, a CPUC probe finds -- A probe by the California Public Utilities Commission has concluded that William Devereaux, a former PG&E employee who used a false identity to spy on activists opposed to SmartMeters, did not act alone but had support from senior managers. Dana Hull in the San Jose Mercury -- 4/26/12

Lab test finds Assemblyman Roger Hernandez was legally drunk -- Hernandez's blood-alcohol level was 0.08 percent at the time of his test, police said in a written statement. His case will be turned over to the Contra Costa District Attorney's Office for review. Jim Sanders in the Sacramento Bee -- 4/26/12

California: Internal Poll Shows Close 2nd District Race -- An internal poll commissioned for Democratic activist Norman Solomon in California’s open 2nd district found him in position to advance beyond the June 5 primary, with several other Democrats close behind. Kyle Trygstad Roll Call -- 4/26/12

Californians to decide if death penalty is worth the money -- We told you recently about a stunning study which found that putting a condemned prisoner to death in California cost $308 million per man. Teri Sforza in the Orange County Register -- 4/26/12

Bad buzz behind traveling Holocaust exhibit -- Was it benevolence that led a French rail company to sponsor a traveling Holocaust exhibit in California? Or was it a cold-blooded business decision? This is one of those cases where you’re just going to have to decide for yourself. BRIAN JOSEPH in the Orange County Register -- 4/26/12

‘Surfing Madonna’ loses a round in Sacramento; hunt for a home continues -- The hunt for a place to display the “Surfing Madonna” mosaic in Encinitas is continuing after a state legislative committee declined to endorse a bill that would allow it to be placed near Moonlight State Beach. Tony Perry in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 4/26/12

Raids in 2 states expand corruption probe of L.A. County assessor -- Boxes of evidence are taken from the home of Assessor John Noguez, who is the focus of an influence-peddling probe, and other sites. The Phoenix-area home of a campaign donor who has secured large tax reductions for clients is also raided. Jack Dolan and Ruben Vives in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 4/26/12

   Economy

California unemployment: Some federal jobless benefits to end -- Close to 100,000 jobless Californians will lose as many as 20 weeks of federal unemployment insurance benefits in three weeks, state officials warned. Marc Lifsher in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 4/26/12

   Education

Education Slowdown Threatens U.S. -- Throughout American history, almost every generation has had substantially more education than that of its parents. That is no longer true. DAVID WESSEL and STEPHANIE BANCHERO in the Wall Street Journal$ -- 4/26/12

Sacramento State evaluates requirements, putting language, history on chopping block -- Sacramento State students may no longer have to take World Civilization or a second semester of writing to graduate. Diana Lambert in the Sacramento Bee -- 4/26/12

LAUSD slashes summer school, smallest offerings ever -- Facing unrelenting budget pressure, Los Angeles Unified has pared its summer school program - again - to its smallest size ever, with only a limited number of courses available to failing high school students who need to make up classes to graduate. Barbara Jones in the Los Angeles Daily News -- 4/26/12

Low marks for Brown but not his ideas -- California voters give Gov. Jerry Brown low marks overall for the way he has handled K-12 education. But, at the same time, they support some school reforms that he’s championing, including directing much of new revenue to poor students, according to a Public Policy Institute of California poll. John Fensterwald educatedguess -- 4/26/12

Vargo: Don’t skip this step: Designing evaluations of teachers starts with trust -- Where do teachers fit into the current landscape of education reform? The results of the recent Met Life poll should surprise no one: Teachers’ morale is at an all-time low. Merrill Vargo TopEd -- 4/26/12

Baron: Heavy editing on textbook publishers -- It’s a sure sign that an issue has hit crisis mode when Republican and Democratic legislators are on the same page about what needs to happen. In this case, it’s a fraying page from a textbook industry that needs some help embracing change. Kathryn Baron TopEd -- 4/26/12

Senate panel rejects bill on school-bus advertising -- The Senate Education Committee on Wednesday rejected a bill that would have opened the door to advertising on the sides of school buses, prompting outrage from the legislation's author: GOP leader Bob Huff. Michael J. Mishak LA Times PolitiCal$ -- 4/26/12

   Environment

Bay Area no longer among 25 most-polluted regions -- The San Francisco metropolitan area has dropped off the list of the top 25 most polluted regions in the nation, the American Lung Association said in a report Wednesday. Peter Fimrite in the San Francisco Chronicle -- 4/26/12

Study: Inland Empire air quality improving; High Desert healthier -- An air quality report released for the first time as a companion to the American Lung Association's annual report shows the same steady decline in pollution, but more accurately reflects differences between regions, say those in charge of regulating air quality locally. Ryan Hagen in the San Bernardino Sun -- 4/26/12

Planning transportation around the Capitol -- Sacramento freeways are notorious for traffic during rush hour. Not only is the capitol region flanked by two major rivers, cutting off potential access routes in and out of the area, but its suburbs are expanding at a rapid rate. But help may soon be on the way. Jenn Walker HealthyCal.org -- 4/26/12

   Occupy

UC Berkeley taking hands-off approach to new Occupy camp -- UC Berkeley plans to use words instead of police power to remove about 50 Occupy members who started farming a plot of university land in Albany called the Gill Tract, a spokesman said Tuesday. Doug Oakley in the Oakland Tribune -- 4/26/12

   Immigration

Threats of terrorism, spillover violence at border overblown, study says -- The report found that those threats have led to an increased enforcement presence and a confusing patchwork of federal agencies responsible for border security. The buildup has pushed migrants into more dangerous travel routes, but has done little to reduce drug trafficking, according to the report. Tia Ghose California Watch -- 4/26/12

   Also..

LA City Council agrees to $2.1M settlement in disability lawsuit -- The city of Los Angeles agreed today to pay $2.1 million in fees and other costs for attorneys who sued on behalf of disabled Angelenos who claimed the city’s emergency plans do not address the needs of residents with disabilities. Alice Walton KPCC LA Rick Orlov in the Los Angeles Daily News -- 4/26/12

Earthquake Warning System Is Running in Los Angeles, But Only A Few Are Hooked Up -- What if we were to tell you that L.A. has an earthquake warning system that pretty much works, but that only a few folks will get the precious alerts? It's true. Dennis Romero LA Weekly -- 4/26/12

Armenian may be added to official translation list for election ballots -- The city council may soon consider including the Armenian language in election ballots in order to service the nearly 30,000 registered voters of Armenian descent in L.A. Ruxandra Guidi KPCC LA -- 4/26/12

Feds called as dispensaries pop-up like weeds in Garden Grove -- Garden Grove police want federal officials to help them deal with the increasing number of medical marijuana dispensaries in their city. Ed Joyce KPCC LA -- 4/26/12

   POTUS 44

Obama, GOP trade swipes in student loan dispute -- President Barack Obama is playing politics with his push to prevent interest rates on federal student loans from increasing in an election-year effort to embarrass Republicans, the Senate's GOP leader said Wednesday. Alan Fram Associated Press -- 4/26/12

Saunders: How to build a tuition trap -- This week President Obama has been warning students that, without his intervention, interest rates for a federal student loan program will double to 6.8 percent on July 1. Debra J. Saunders in the San Francisco Chronicle -- 4/26/12

   Beltway

Watchdog rejects idea that TARP will turn a profit -- The government's watchdog for the $700-billion Troubled Asset Relief Program on Wednesday disputed suggestions the bailout fund would turn a profit for taxpayers, and warned that many small banks are still struggling to repay. Jim Puzzanghera in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 4/26/12

Republicans announce House vote to keep student-loan rates steady -- Congressional Republicans on Wednesday announced their opposition to a Democratic proposal to pay for extending low rates for college loans by imposing new payroll taxes on some small businesses. Rosalind S. Helderman and Paul Kane in the Washington Post -- 4/26/12