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State news briefs
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CALIF. MEETS FIRST INMATE TARGET SET BY COURT: SACRAMENTO . (AP) — California prison officials say they have met the first target set by a federal court to reduce inmate overcrowding.
Federal judges ordered the state to reduce the population by about 10,000 inmates by the end of 2011. The population in the 33 adult prisons fell to 132,887 as of last week's court-imposed deadline.
Corrections spokesman Jeffrey Callison said Tuesday that the population is now two-tenths of a percentage point under the goal required by the courts. It means the state is on track to reduce its prison population by 33,000, or 23 percent, over two years as a way to meet a judicial mandate to improve inmate medical care.
The state is reducing its population mainly through a law that sends lower-level criminals to county jails instead of state prison.
CITY OFFICIAL URGES PURGE OF RECORDS AMID REQUESTS: ANAHEIM  (AP) — An Anaheim official has urged employees to purge old documents from city files and threatened disciplinary action if they fail to do so amid a barrage of records requests.
The Voice of OC reports that planning department official Hannah Jones sent an email last week telling employees that old documents that turn up in response to requests can "damage our credibility."
The nonprofit news agency says the email was sent after it filed a request for records of communications to and from members of the City Council.
The public employees' union has told workers not to destroy records until the district attorney's office determines whether the request is legal.
City Clerk Linda Andal says she interpreted the email as a reminder to manage records in line with city policy.
GROUPS WANT POLLUTION MONITORING NEAR CA FREEWAYS: LOS ANGELES (AP) — Several groups are challenging an air monitoring plan, saying it doesn't do enough to address the health of Southern California residents living near freeways.
The Natural Resources Defense Council and others filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the Environmental Protection Agency, saying it violated the Clean Air Act by approving the plan by regional air regulators last year.
The groups want sensors placed within 300 yards of freeways to track pollution from cars and trucks.
Studies have suggested that people who live or work near major roads have an increased risk of health problems.
The EPA did not immediately comment.
MAN WHO ESCAPED  PRISON IN FIRE TRUCK CAUGHT: SAN DIEGO (AP) — Authorities say a man who escaped a state prison in San Diego in a fire truck on New Year's Day has been captured.
The Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility said 51-year-old Thomas Kelley was taken into custody Tuesday morning at a trolley station in suburban Lemon Grove.
Authorities say Kelley was assigned to the prison fire crew. They say he fled in the prison fire truck and abandoned the vehicle in suburban Spring Valley.
Kelley was assigned to a minimum-security part of the prison. He had violated parole for vehicle theft.
Prison spokesman Lt. Patrick Logan says the San Diego County district attorney's office may decide to charge Kelley with the escape.
RECORD HIGHS AS SO. CALIF. HAS SUNNY WINTER: LOS ANGELES (AP) — The skates were still out in downtown's Pershing Square on Tuesday but the only ice was manmade, as Southern California sweltered through another day of sunny, toasty weather that has set daily temperature records.
A high-pressure ridge of air over the region will keep daily highs in the 80s for many areas through Wednesday, National Weather Service meteorologist David Sweet said.
"It's been nice and toasty for the holiday season," he said.
Sunny weather isn't unusual for the season, but it's been slightly drier and hotter than usual because the region hasn't benefited from cooler air that flows in from the Nevada desert.
"With a light offshore flow, that cold air is not getting in. It's just a very light push of air," Sweet said.
On Monday, the temperature at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank topped out at 83, breaking a record of 81 for the date that was set in 1980. The University of California, Los Angeles, had 82, breaking the 2001 record of 80. Idyllwild's 73 outpaced the 2003 record of 67
LAWMAKERS FACE $13B DEFICIT: SACRAMENTO  (AP) — California lawmakers will reconvene to face a $13 billion budget deficit and other familiar issues, but they also will be dealing with an entirely new political landscape.
Legislators who want to continue their political careers are trying to figure out a new primary system and independently drawn legislative boundaries. The election-year dynamics are likely to influence much of the legislative debate, including how to resolve California's continual budget shortfalls.
Lawmakers returning Wednesday in Sacramento are awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to deal with the deficit over the next 18 months. He has until Jan. 10 to present his proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
Brown plans to ask voters in November to raise income taxes on high-income earners and boost the state sales tax by half a cent, both temporary measures. His budget is expected to include automatic cuts to public schools and social services if voters reject that initiative.
Increasing the sales tax and boosting income taxes on those earning more than $250,000 a year is expected to raise about $7 billion a year for five years.
BROTHERS PLEAD NOT GUILTY IN MURDERS OF 2 TEENS: FRESNO (AP) — Two brothers have each pleaded not guilty to murder charges in the gang-related shooting of two teens at a Fresno apartment complex.
The Fresno Bee reports that 19-year-old Jarrad Beard and his 15-year-old brother, Jerry Beard, entered their pleas Tuesday in Fresno County Superior Court. Jerry Beard is being charged as an adult.
The brothers were each charged in the Dec. 20 deaths of 18-year-old Justin Hesketh and 16-year-old Brandon Moore.
Police say the victims were riding in a truck stopped at an intersection when the Beard brothers walked into front of their vehicle and exchanged menacing looks with them. That led to the shootings after a chase into a nearby apartment complex.
Police Chief Jerry Dyer says the Beard brothers are gang members, but the victims were not.