Latest California news, sports, business and entertainment

CALIFORNIA BUDGET

California budget surges to record high

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A robust economic recovery and surging revenue propelled by voter-approved tax increases has sent California's general fund spending to a record high, but Gov. Jerry Brown is pledging a somber approach to the windfall.

In introducing his budget proposal Thursday, the Democratic governor said beginning to pay down California's massive "wall of debt" must be a priority.

His budget proposal for the 2014-15 fiscal year dedicates $11 billion to paying down debts and liabilities, including $6 billion in payments that had been deferred to schools.

He also sets aside $1.6 billion for a rainy day fund to protect against future downturns, saying "wisdom and prudence should be the order of the day."

The record $106.8 billion general fund exceeds the spending level of just before the recession by more than $3 billion and is a nearly 9 percent increase over spending in the current fiscal year.

OFFSHORE FRACKING-CALIFORNIA

EPA to require Calif. offshore fracking reports

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Federal environmental regulators will start requiring oil and gas operations off the Southern California coast to report chemicals discharged into the ocean from fracking.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday published the requirement in the federal register, and will become effective March 1.

The move comes after a series of stories by The Associated Press revealed at least a dozen fracking operations in the Santa Barbara Channel, and more than 200 in nearshore waters overseen by the state of California.

The jobs were conducted with no separate environmental analysis of the fracking chemicals on the sea environment, and little or no oversight.

Fracking involves pumping large amounts of sand, water and chemicals deep underground to release oil.

The oil industry insists fracking does not harm the environment.

SEC-DIAMOND FOODS

SEC reaches settlement with Diamond Foods

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Securities and Exchange Commission has charged Diamond Foods and two of its former executives for their roles in an accounting scheme to falsify walnut costs in order to boost earnings for the snack food maker.

Diamond Foods will pay $5 million to settle the charges. Former CEO Michael Mendes has also agreed to settle charges against him. But the SEC said Thursday that its litigation continues against former Chief Financial Officer Steven Neil.

The SEC says Neil directed the effort to underreport money paid to walnut growers by pushing the recording of payments into later fiscal periods. That, in turn, made the company's earnings results appear better than they were.

Diamond later restated its financial results to reflect the true costs, but the scandal severely damaged its stock price.

GOOGLE-FERRY SERVICE

Google launches private ferry service for workers

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — How's this for an employee perk? Google workers commuting from San Francisco to the company's Silicon Valley campus can now make part of the trek on an 83-foot, Wi-Fi-equipped catamaran.

The popular search engine has launched a free ferry service from San Francisco's ferry terminal to the Port of Redwood City about 26 miles away, where employees can then hop a private bus to work.

Named the "Triumphant," the charter ferry can carry up to 150 passengers and runs twice each morning and evening, with voyages lasting about 47 minutes each way.

Google will reportedly pay about $50 each time it docks its ferry in San Francisco. A company spokesman says they're "trying to find alternate ways to get Googlers to work" that don't inconvenience San Francisco residents.

SAN JOSE WAREHOUSE FIRE

Crews contain 5-alarm warehouse fire in San Jose

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Firefighters have contained a massive early morning 5-alarm blaze at a vacant warehouse near Highway 101 in San Jose.

Dozens of firefighters were expected to remain on the scene for hours pouring water on the fire that was reported shortly after 5:30 a.m. Thursday at the warehouse that once occupied several businesses in a mostly industrial area.

No injuries have been reported.

Fire officials say fire is believed to have started at the north end as the roof partially collapsed while crews were preventing the blaze from spreading.

The California Highway Patrol has also reopened a stretch of Highway 101 near Julian Street as crews now have the fire under control.

But, two schools nearby have cancelled classes and will be closed for the day because of the fire.

TRAIN FATAL-BICYCLIST

Bicyclist struck, killed by Metrolink train

SANTA FE SPRINGS, Calif. (AP) — Authorities are investigating the death of a bicyclist struck and killed by a Metrolink in southern Los Angeles County.

City News Service says the collision occurred about 7:15 a.m. Thursday in Santa Fe Springs.

The bicyclist, described only as a male, died at the scene.

The circumstances of the death are under investigation.

Jeff Lustgarten of Metrolink says the train was southbound on the Orange County Line with 160 passengers on board.

Buses were brought in to carry passengers around the closed section of track.

TEACHER-STUDENT BABY

Ex-teacher jailed for student sex is released

(Information in the following story is from: The Sun, http://www.sbsun.com)

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (AP) — A former Southern California teacher who had her student's baby has been released from jail.

The San Bernardino Sun says 29-year-old Laura Whitehurst was released this week with more than six months left on her one year sentence.

She must register as a sex offender within five days and wear a GPS tracking device.

Whitehurst is a former teacher at Citrus Valley High School in Redlands. Prosecutors say she began an affair with a student in 2012. She gave birth last July.

The father, who's now 18, told a judge she robbed him of his innocence.

Under a plea deal, Whitehurst pleaded guilty to having unlawful sex with the teen and with two former students who are now adults.

Whitehurst's parents are caring for the child.

MOUNTAIN LION INBREEDING

Inbreeding found in S. Calif. mountain lions

LOS ANGELES (AP) — DNA tests indicate three mountain lions born last month in the Santa Monica Mountains were inbred, a troubling sign for a population penned in by major freeways and the urban sprawl of metropolitan Los Angeles.

The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area announced Thursday that a male and two females born in the Malibu Springs area were sired by an adult male and his daughter.

Urban wildlife expert Seth Riley says the kittens were healthy but there's concern that without new blood, eventually inbreeding could cause physical defects, such as heart defects and sterility.

The mountain range is surrounded by densely populated areas and separated from other wilderness by heavily traveled routes such as U.S. 101, making it difficult for lions to move in and out.

DODGERS-PADRES OPENER

Dodgers and Padres to open North American schedule

NEW YORK (AP) — After playing Major League Baseball's season opener in Australia, the Los Angeles Dodgers will start the North American portion of the schedule, too.

The San Diego Padres will host the Dodgers on March 30 in a game to be broadcast by ESPN, the network said Thursday.

Los Angeles and Arizona open the season with a two-game series at Sydney on March 22-23, MLB's first regular-season games in Australia.

Most other big league teams start their schedules March 31.