EAST COUNTY ROUNDUP: TOP LOCAL AND STATE NEWS

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February 21, 2013--(San Diego’s East County)--East County Roundup highlights top stories of interest to East County and San Diego’s inland regions, published in other media. This week’s top “Roundup” headlines include:

LOCAL/REGIONAL

STATE

Read more for excerpts and links to full stories.

LOCAL/REGIONAL

Judge: Utility customers owed about $1.6B (U-T San Diego)

February 19, 2013--California utility customers should receive an estimated $1.6 billion from energy wholesalers that manipulated markets at the outset of the state’s 2000-2001 energy crisis, a federal energy regulator has recommended in a case launched by San Diego Gas & Electric.

The findings of an administrative law judge at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, won praise from state utilities officials Tuesday. The judge sided with the state and three investor-owned utilities in finding that more than a dozen electricity wholesalers artificially drove up energy prices, leading to supply shortages that caused rolling blackouts and forcing billions in overpayments.

Company plans to reopen railway link to El Centro (Patch.com)

February 17, 2013--A former New York investment banker is finishing plans to revitalize the railroad line between San Diego and El Centro, a twisty, short line that has been beset by fires, floods and tunnel collapses over the past 40 years.

Ernest Dahlman, chief executive officer of the Pacific Imperial Railroad, said he is raising funds to improve 130 miles of track from the San Ysidro border crossing through Tijuana, Tecate, and the rugged Carrizo Gorge in East County.

Former San Diego Mayor admits taking charity funds for gambling addiction (Fox)

February 14, 2013--Former San Diego mayor Maureen O'Connor has admitted in federal court that she misappropriated $2 million from her late husband's charitable foundation due to a gambling addiction in which won more than $1 billion but lost even more over nearly a decade.

O'Connor made the acknowledgement Thursday in an agreement with the government to defer prosecution for two years while she attempts to repay the debt.

Dianne Jacob Tells La Mesa Chamber Her 'Big Concern' is Public Safety (La Mesa Patch)

February 13, 2013--Recounting what she called a “pretty horrifying” chat, county Supervisor Dianne Jacob says a loophole in state law allows convicted felons to be released to skilled nursing facilities without notice given the District Attorney’s Office.

One felon ended up exposing himself to other patients, she told a La Mesa Chamber of Commerce breakfast Tuesday.

Somalis raised in City Heights consider returning to their homeland (Voice of San Diego)

February 18, 2013--The United States officially recognized the Somali government last month for the first time since 1991, alerting Somali refugees in City Heights and throughout the world their homeland is making a comeback.

Somalia has been called “the world’s most failed state,” enduring deadly famines and more than two decades of civil war with al Shabaab militants linked to al Qaeda.

$45M warranty payment for San Onofre (U-T San Diego)

February 19, 2013--The maker of faulty replacement steam generators at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station has paid $45.4 million on an initial claim related to a year-long shutdown of the plant.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries issued the payment under terms of a warranty covering the design and fabrication of four steam generators, Southern California Edison told state utilities regulators in filings this month.

An official at the California Utilities Commission, which is considering a customer rebate for plant-outage costs, confirmed the payment on Tuesday.

Santee takes water saving to the streets (U-T San Diego)

February 13, 2013-- Santee will be the first city in San Diego County to use partially treated or reclaimed water rather than drinking water for street sweeping.

Switching to reclaimed water will save the city some money and will save 60,000 gallons of potable water a year.

“Although the cost savings is minimal, switching to reclaimed water is a great idea because it conserves a valuable resource: drinking water,” said Kathy Valverde, who oversees Santee’s Sustainability Program. “It may seem like an obvious alternative, but we’ll actually be the first city in the region to accomplish this.”

San Diego avocado industry disappearing (10 News)

 February 16, 2013--Avocados, one of San Diego County's top crops, are disappearing, and 10News has confirmed avocado trees are being ripped out at an increasing rate and replaced with other crops. It's not quite harvest time on Phil Pace's 15-acre property in Escondido. However, when the avocados do get picked, there won't be many of them. Some blame it on the cost of growing a business. "The numbers didn't add up. I wanted to make a business decision," said Pace.

STATE

Ex-California parks official fined in scandal (Sacramento Bee)

February 17, 2013--The central figure in one of the financial scandals that engulfed the California state parks department last year has agreed to pay a $7,000 civil penalty.

Manuel Thomas Lopez, 45, of Granite Bay, was deputy director of administrative services at the California Department of Parks and Recreation in 2011 when he authorized an illegal vacation buyout program for employees at the department's headquarters in Sacramento.

New bill would bar California from honoring indefinite detention law (Sacramento Bee)

February 15, 2013--Enforce the law, go to jail?

A Republican assemblyman wants to make it a crime in California to enforce a federal law that allows terror suspects to be detained indefinitely, even when no charges have been filed.

Assembly Bill 351 by Tim Donnelly of Twin Peaks would allow federal or state officials to be charged with a misdemeanor if they enforce the federal detention law in California.

Analyst says Jerry Brown's budget plan vulnerable to legal attack (Sacramento Bee)

February 20, 2013--The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office said Tuesday that Gov. Jerry Brown's budget proposal "raises serious legal concerns" in at least two instances where the governor wants to use fees to fund potentially unrelated programs. 

Geography to play larger role in health premiums (Sacramento Bee)

February 16, 2013--Whether it's the densely populated Southern California coast or the mountains of rural Northern California, geography is going to play a larger role in the cost of health insurance under the federal health care overhaul set to take effect next year. 

Legislature to renew debate over rural fire fee (Sacramento Bee)

February 18, 2013--Whether it's the densely populated Southern California coast or the mountains of rural Northern California, geography is going to play a larger role in the cost of health insurance under the federal health care overhaul set to take effect next year.