* Updates Since Early This Morning

California Senate cracks down on animal fighting, replica guns -- Trainers, hosts and spectators at cockfights and dogfights would face much steeper criminal fines under legislation approved Monday by the state Senate. Patrick McGreevy LA Times PolitiCal$ -- 4/23/12

Death penalty repeal appears heading to ballot -- Supporters of a campaign to repeal the death penalty expressed confidence Monday that their initiative will qualify for the November ballot. Michael Gardner UT San Diego -- 4/23/12

Prison officials offer plan for 'massive' change to cut costs -- California officials announced plans today for a "massive" change in how they handle the state's prison system, part of an effort to get out from under court-ordered mandates that address overcrowding and health care deficiencies. Sam Stanton in the Sacramento Bee Chris Megerian LA Times PolitiCal$ -- 4/23/12

Jerry Brown aide Steve Glazer confirmed to CSU Trustee post -- Steve Glazer, who is helping run the Democratic governor's tax measure campaign, was approved by the state Senate by a vote of 31-5. Torey Van Oot SacBee Capitol Alert -- 4/23/12

SEC sues former CalPERS chief executive, former board member -- The Securities and Exchange Commission today sued CalPERS' former chief executive, as well as former board member Alfred Villalobos, in connection with an alleged bribery scheme that rocked the big California pension fund. Dale Kasler in the Sacramento Bee -- 4/23/12

California Taxpayers Association offers $7.3 billion in savings, revenue increases -- The California Taxpayers Association handed ammunition Monday to opponents of this year's proposed tax increases - a report that outlines $7.3 billion in operational savings and non-tax "revenue enhancements" in state and local governments. Dan Walters SacBee Capitol Alert -- 4/23/12

California judicial summit conference aims at healing political rift -- Gov. Jerry Brown's Yale Law School classmate and close friend, Appellate Justice J. Anthony Kline, is mediating a judicial summit conference today that will attempt to heal the years-long political war that has divided the state's judiciary. Dan Walters SacBee Capitol Alert -- 4/23/12

Hoffenblum: The Top Two Primary is Coming: “Fasten Your Seatbelts … it’s going to be a bumpy night.” – Part 1 -- When Bette Davis spoke the above line in the classic movie, All About Eve, I’m certain she did not have California politics in mind. But it fittingly describes how many of California’s most powerful power brokers will feel the night of June 5 … the date of the state’s first Top-Two Open Primary Election. Allan Hoffenblum Fox & Hounds -- 4/23/12

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher can’t enter Afghanistan -- Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Monday he was denied entry into Afghanistan because of his critical views of that country’s government. DARIUS DIXON Politico -- 4/23/12

Romney's healthcare plan may be more revolutionary than Obama's -- As he pushes to "repeal and replace" President Obama's healthcare law, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has turned to proposals that could alter the way hundreds of millions of Americans get their medical insurance. Noam N. Levey in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 4/23/12

Radio newsman Bob Melrose retires from KCBS after 36 years telling Bay Area stories -- In the fast-paced field of hard news journalism, timing is everything. It's a concept well-known to Bob Melrose, who always had a knack for being in the right place in his 36 years reporting the Bay Area's most shocking and memorable stories on the all-news radio station KCBS. Malaika Fraley in the San Jose Mercury -- 4/23/12

Solar power producers hesitate to embrace new DWP program -- A DWP pilot program will let solar power producers reduce their bills and sell excess energy, but some say they're worried the new system will be plagued by the same problems as an older system. Catherine Saillant in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 4/23/12


   California Policy and Politics This Morning

Cost of public retiree health care soars in California -- As Stockton contemplates a bankruptcy filing, cities, counties and school districts throughout California are grappling with the same issue that has led the delta port city to the brink of insolvency - soaring costs for retiree health care. JUDY LIN Associated Press -- 4/23/12

Action slow so far on governor's pension reforms -- It's been six months since Gov. Jerry Brown put forward his proposals to make the public pension system more affordable, yet action on his 12-point plan has been nearly imperceptible. JUDY LIN Associated Press -- 4/23/12

CalSTRS: on the road to ruin or recovery? -- An annual look at CalSTRS, the nation’s second largest public pension system, once again raises the question of whether there is an urgent need to begin putting more money into the pension fund. Ed Mendel Calpensions.com -- 4/23/12

Bills, bills, bills this week at state Capitol -- There's a growing debate about whether legislators under the Capitol dome are so busy introducing and debating bills that they are left with too little time to consider California's more systemic -- and serious -- problems. John Myers Capitol Connection -- 4/23/12

Walters: California Democrats searching under every fiscal rock -- With the state budget mired in deficits, Gov. Jerry Brown and legislators, especially his fellow Democrats, are searching under every fiscal rock for money to spend. Dan Walters in the Sacramento Bee -- 4/23/12

'No party preference' is new political flavor in California -- Congressional candidate Linda Parks isn't one for conventional choices. As she tells voters in a recent television ad, her favorite ice cream flavor is not chocolate or vanilla, but the nuts-and-marshmallow-loaded Rocky Road. Torey Van Oot in the Sacramento Bee -- 4/23/12

As primary showdown looms, an electorate in flux -- With the June primary election approaching, the California electorate appears engaged in the political process but is increasingly disenchanted with both major political parties. John Howard Capitol Weekly -- 4/23/12

Tobacco marketing targets low-income, black youth, researchers say -- Academic researchers funded by the state’s Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program found that there was greater visibility of menthol cigarette advertising at retailers near high schools where there are larger African American student populations. Bernice Yeung California Watch -- 4/23/12

Mirkarimi ethics hearing 'uncharted waters' for San Francisco -- The city's slow-moving effort to oust suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi from office moves Monday afternoon to a misconduct hearing before the Ethics Commission, but don't expect any courtroom fireworks. Or even a courtroom. John Wildermuth in the San Francisco Chronicle -- 4/23/12

Court documents reveal PG&E likely to take hard line on issue of paying punitive damages -- PG&E is aggressively fighting what could be the costliest fallout yet from the deadly pipeline blast in San Bruno -- a lawsuit payout to explosion survivors that could reach billions of dollars. Joshua Melvin in the Contra Costa Times -- 4/23/12

CalBuzz: How the FPPC Can Legally Expose Sock Puppets -- We were more than a little concerned when we read last week that Ann Ravel, chairwoman of California’s Fair Political Practices Commission, was considering regulations requiring bloggers to disclose if they’re being paid by political campaigns. Jerry Roberts and Phil Trounstine CalBuzz -- 4/23/12

   High-Speed Rail

Skelton: Voters deserve a do-over on bullet train vote -- Republican lawmakers, citing changes to the deal, want to put the brakes on the project. George Skelton in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 4/23/12


Abundant crude supply doesn't push gas prices down -- The tanker's inability to unload its oil underlines a startling reality: Crude oil supplies in the United States have been at historic highs for two years, while Americans are using less of its most important product - gasoline. Eric Nalder in the San Francisco Chronicle -- 4/23/12

U.S. tariffs on Chinese solar cells fuel debate about green jobs -- Some domestic solar manufacturers praised the recent import levy as a victory for job creation, but an analysis of the industry suggests the duty may actually be a job killer. Ken Bensinger in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 4/23/12

Special fund’s days are numbered -- Throughout much of the past decade, California’s Indian Gaming Special Distribution Fund has been a rare revenue bright spot for Riverside County. Created by the agreements that legalized gambling on tribal lands, the fund has fostered grants to pay for police officers, medical services and other expenses to offset traffic and other consequences of having casinos nearby. JIM MILLER in the Riverside Press -- 4/23/12


Fensterwald: Easing the burden of deferrals -- A bill working its way through the state Senate would require the state to share the financial burden it causes the next time it delays money due K-12 districts. John Fensterwald educatedguess -- 4/23/12

Schrag: Zoning The Poor Out of Good Schools -- Most of us have long known that in places like Oakland and Berkeley, and probably in a lot of other cities as well, the easiest way to predict a school’s test scores is by the altitude of the building. Peter Schrag Cal Progress Report -- 4/23/12

Community colleges consider limits on retaking gym, arts classes -- As constrained budgets and course cuts have made it harder for many students to get the classes they need, the California Community Colleges are taking further steps toward rationing course offerings and focusing resources on students who are pursuing degrees, certificates, transfer or career goals. Erica Perez California Watch -- 4/23/12\

Effort afoot to restore art in California schools -- As it turns out, business leaders hiring the workforce of tomorrow don't want applicants who are really good at filling in bubbles on standardized tests. Creativity is key, more than 1,500 executives said in a 2010 survey. Jill Tucker in the San Francisco Chronicle -- 4/23/12

Local projects languish as state support for school construction runs dry -- Romoland has the distinction of being first on a new waiting list state regulators have created to track school construction applications for which there are no matching funds. Kimberly Beltran SI&A Cabinet Report -- 4/23/12

Suspension, expulsion numbers prompt reform efforts -- Recent disclosure that minority students in many California schools are disproportionately subject to suspension and expulsion has prompted a spate of legislation aimed at restricting the sanctions. Tom Chorneau SI&A Cabinet Report -- 4/23/12

Program gives college students a break on out-of-state tuition -- The little-known Western Undergraduate Exchange offers discounts at public colleges and universities to students from 15 states. Larry Gordon in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 4/23/12

   Health Care

Lawmakers move to curb hospitals from 'capturing' patients -- The emergency room practices of a major California hospital chain have prompted new legislation to reduce what critics describe as a pattern of "capturing" insured patients in order to boost bills. Christina Jewett California Watch -- 4/23/12


In Hippie Holdout, a Fight Over Worms and Moats -- For the last 40 years, Mr. Hoffman, 67, an entrepreneur who specializes in rare aged tea leaves, has been building a Chinese- and Tibetan-inspired compound on a steep hill in this unincorporated hippie holdover in western Marin County where the general store has a community piano and sells clothing “made with peace and love.” PATRICIA LEIGH BROWN in the New York Times$ -- 4/23/12

L.A. City attorney race would be wide open in 2013 -- Polls? We got polls. For one, look at the 2013 city attorney's race. Rick Orlov in the Los Angeles Daily News -- 4/23/12

For entrant in Sikorsky helicopter contest, a lift of faith -- Neil Saiki, a Santa Cruz engineer, has plenty of rotor rooters as he chases the $250,000 Igor I. Sikorsky Prize, to be awarded to whoever comes up with a human-powered copter capable of hovering for 1 minute and rising 3 meters. Steve Chawkins in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 4/23/12

   POTUS 44

Obama's reelection bid brightens with improving economic signals -- His campaign can face the next eight months with guarded optimism because Europe appears ready to take stronger action to confront its debt crisis, gas prices have retreated recently and economists have become more optimistic about job growth. Don Lee in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 4/23/12


Mitt Romney’s record in Silicon Valley -- Scattered throughout Romney’s memoir, statements and recent campaign documents are clues to how he regards Internet piracy and SOPA, tax reform, cybersecurity protections, net neutrality and federal R&D — all issues that could double as litmus tests for cash-flush Silicon Valley, where many potential tech allies and donors are still sizing up the candidates. TONY ROMM and DAVID SALEH RAUF Politico -- 4/23/12