However the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately rules on the federal health care overhaul, California should push ahead with its own version of universal health care, says the Brown administration's top health official.
From Kevin Yamamura and David Siders in the Sacramento Bee: "If the court does rule the federal law unconstitutional, state Health and Human Services Secretary Diana Dooley said California should at least consider enacting its own universal health care legislation, including requiring every Californian to buy insurance."
"I think that we should be committed to making this system more rational than it is today, and improving the health of the people of California," Dooley said in an interview."
A security breach in the government computer system handling child-support data has led to the loss of system devices containing the names of 800,000 Californians -- and nobody knows where all the information went.
From the Contra Costa Times' Steve Harmon: "The Department of Child Support Services reported Thursday the data devices were lost March 12 en route to California from the Colorado facilities of IBM, one of the contractors in charge of the storage devices."
"Authorities have begun to notify customers by mail about the incident, warning them that the devices include names, addresses, Social Security numbers, driver's license numbers, names of health insurance providers and employers."
"There has been no evidence that the information has been misused, department officials said."
Back at the ranch, GOP lawmakers introduced their own version of a state budget that, unlike the governor's plan, doesn't contrain new taxes. Democrats immediately denounced the effort as a political ploy to deflect support for the November ballot proposal pushed by the governor.
From the Chonicle's Wyatt Buchanan: "Republicans said the plan, which relies largely on one-time solutions that were included in past budget agreements, undercuts Democrats' argument that higher taxes are needed to avoid deeper cuts to public schools, along with colleges and universities."
"We don't want to use kids as political pawns in this state budget. We want to avoid teacher layoffs," said Sen. Bill Emmerson, R-Hemet (Riverside County), vice chairman of the Senate Budget Committee."
"The governor's budget plan assumes that voters will approve a ballot measure in November to increase the sales and personal income taxes. If that does not happen, Brown wants billions of dollars in automatic spending cuts that would fall almost entirely on K-12 schools and community colleges, along with the University of California and California State University systems."
The federal fraud case of Democratic campaign accountant Kinde Durkee likely will come to a head today in U.S. District Court where she is expected to plead out, but whatever happens in court, Rep. Susan Davis is gloing to push ahead to recover the $160,000 that she says Durkee diddled from her campaign funds.
From the U-T's Michael Gardner: "Kinde Durkee is expected to either plead guilty or no contest to a number of felony charges related to the alleged bilking of high-profile Democrats when she appears in federal court in Sacramento Friday. There have been reports that prosecutors will ask for a prison sentence of up to 14 years."
“It’s good that the first phase of this investigation is over,” Davis, D-San Diego, said in a statement. “I remain unsympathetic to someone who continually embezzled from people engaged in the democratic process or charitable pursuits.”
"The federal charges made public thus far do not allege that Durkee embezzled money directly out of Davis’ account, although investigations continue and Davis has filed a lawsuit to recover some funds."
One piece of a high-speed rail system is the electrification of a stretch of Caltrain track in the Bay Area, and a $1.5 billion deal has been reached to do just that.
From the Merc's Mike Rosenberg:"It will be much-improved train service in the corridor and it allows us to get some relatively early benefits of the spending of the high-speed rail funds without having to wait 10 to 20 years," San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, whose administration helped draft the deal, said in an interview after the vote."
"However, lingering questions remain over whether the new plan to run both Caltrain and state high-speed trains on an electric version of the existing two-track system is legal because voters in 2008 approved a high-speed rail line that assumed four tracks."
"By sharing a pair of tracks with Caltrain, it could take California high-speed trains 45 minutes to travel between San Francisco and San Jose on their way to Los Angeles, instead of 30 minutes with four tracks. The slowdown also calls into question whether the state can meet its legal mandate to whisk bullet trains between San Francisco and Los Angeles in 2 hours, 40 minutes -- a requirement that relied on lightning-quick speeds in the Bay Area."
And from our "Art vs. Life" file comes the tale of the life-sized bust of "Scarface" actor Al Pacino -- which was found in the home of an Italian crime leader in Naples.
"The bust from the famous 1983 film was on a desk in an office of his luxury villa in Naples, where he ran his multi-million pound drug dealing empire."
"Mob investigators launched a series of raids, aided with dogs and helicopters, around the Boscoreale district of Naples, the crime ridden southern Italian port city which is home to the local mafia known as the Camorra."
"Investigators said that Padovani ran a sophisticated network which included using children as young as eight to act as spotters in case police arrived and women who would carry drugs and cash for dealers."