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State news briefs
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GOVERNOR REJECTS RAISING CELLPHONE FINES: SACRAMENTO  (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday vetoed a bill that would have raised the fine for illegally using a cellphone while driving in California from $20 to $30.

Brown rejected the penalty increase, saying he believes the current fine is "a powerful deterrent." While the state base fine is $20, the governor noted that the total can climb to $200 or $300 with court fees.

"Upping the fines may satisfy the punitive instincts of some, but I severely doubt that it will further reduce violations," the governor wrote in a message.

Palo Alto Democratic Sen. Joe Simitian says his bill, SB1310, was intended to reduce deaths and collisions by discouraging using hand-held cellphones. Repeat violations also would have added points to drivers' records, potentially increasing their insurance costs.

The additional $10 would have gone to educating motorists.

BROWN ENDORSES HANDS-OFF STANCE ON INTERNET CALLS: SACRAMENTO . (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown announced Friday that he had signed a bill curbing regulatory oversight of phone calls made over the internet.

The Democratic governor said the legislation, which is backed by AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc., will encourage the growth of "innovative services that have become the hallmark of our state."

Members of the California Public Utilities Commission said SB 1161 would prevent them from regulating any telephone services, because land-line phones now use technology that sends voice signals over the Internet.

Consumer advocates also opposed the bill, and said it would enable companies to skirt regulations that help low-income and disabled customers.

GOVERNOR OKS FREE TOLL LANE ACCESS FOR CLEAN CARS: SACRAMENTO  (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown announced Friday that he signed a bill that will allow the next generation of clean-energy vehicles to access California carpool lanes for free if they are converted to toll lanes.

San Francisco, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Diego are experimenting with high-occupancy toll lanes — or HOT lanes — to help reduce congestion.

Brown signed AB2405 by Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, D-Woodland Hills, which seeks to encourage Californians to buy plug-in hybrids and certified zero-emission vehicles, such as those that run on electricity, hydrogen fuel cells or compressed natural gas.

Access to carpool lanes for solo drivers of hybrid vehicles, which run on gasoline and batteries, was phased out last year.

The Department of Motor Vehicles issues stickers to designate qualified clean air vehicles that grant solo drivers access to existing carpool lanes.

As of May, the DMV issued about 19,000 white stickers for certified zero-emission vehicles and about 100 green stickers for plug-in hybrid cars.

There is no cap on the number of white stickers while there is a limit of 40,000 green stickers.

Yellow stickers for hybrid cars are no longer valid.

JURY: DEATH FOR ARSONIST CONVICTED OF 5 MURDERS: SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (AP) — A jury on Friday recommended death for an arsonist convicted of murdering five men who died of heart attacks during a wildfire that ripped through Southern California nearly a decade ago.

The murder charges against Rickie Lee Fowler, 31, signaled a tough standard for arson cases in a region plagued by wildfires that sometimes claim the lives of firefighters and civilians.

The Old Fire scorched 91,000 acres and destroyed 1,000 buildings while burning for nine days. The men died after their homes burned or as they tried to evacuate.

Superior Court Judge Michael A. Smith ordered Fowler to return to court Nov. 16 for sentencing. The judge can either accept the jury's recommendation or sentence Fowler to life in prison without possibility of parole.

San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael A. Ramos welcomed the verdict after the fire devastated neighborhoods, destroying people's lives and cherished personal property such as photos, albums and letters that can never be replaced.

TEEN CONVICTED OF ROAD RAGE KILLING OF PIZZA MAN: LOS ANGELES (AP) — A teenager has been convicted of the road rage shooting death of a Los Angeles pizza delivery man.

Prosecutors say a jury on Thursday found 19-year-old Jose Beltran guilty of second-degree murder, two counts of attempted murder and weapons allegations. The jury found not true special allegations that the crimes were gang related.

Investigators say 25-year-old Juan David Vasquez Loma was driving co-workers home from a Silver Lake pizza parlor in August 2011 when he passed Beltran's car at a stop sign.

Beltran began chasing Loma's pickup truck, flashing gang signs as he went. Loma stopped and waved Beltran ahead, but Beltran shot him in the head.

Beltran faces multiple life prison terms when he's sentenced on Nov. 1.

TRASH HAULER TO PAY $2 MILLION IN DUMPING CASE: BAKERSFIELD  (AP) — State officials say the owner of a garbage collection company will pay nearly $2.4 million as part of his guilty plea to charges that he illegally dumped trash from Los Angeles in Kern County.

Paul M. Benz — owner of Benz Sanitation — pleaded guilty on Thursday.

The 68-year-old Benz had a contract with Kern County to dump its residential trash in local landfills at no cost. But prosecutors say he also deposited trash he collected in Los Angeles in those landfills and mislabeled it to make it seem like it came from Kern County.

Benz allegedly avoided paying dumping fees in both Kern County and Los Angeles County that way.

MARINE CONVICTED OF KILLING TODDLER: JOSHUA TREE  (AP) — A Marine has been convicted for killing a friend's toddler daughter near a Southern California desert military base.

A San Bernardino County jury in Joshua Tree on Thursday found 23-year-old Joshua Kruzik guilty of second-degree murder and assault on a child resulting in death.

Kruzik was a corporal at New River Air Station in North Carolina when he fatally stuck 18-month-old Audrey Allen to make her stop crying.

Kruzik, who was training in the Southern California desert, had agreed to babysit the toddler for her parents, who were fellow Marines.