Weinsteins, Disney Said Near Final Deal

Harvey Weinstein, the Miramax Films co-founder, is expected to meet this week with executives of The Walt Disney Co. for a final round of negotiations that would allow the Weinsteins to leave Disney when their contract expires in September, The New York Times reported. Harvey and Bob Weinstein have agreed to market several Miramax movies that have been completed and will be released before they depart Sept. 30. And they've agreed to reduce Miramax's budget to less than $350 million for the year ending in September, about half of the $700 million they have been allowed to spend.

Insurance Deal Audit Requested
Sen. Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo), the chairwoman of a state Senate oversight committee, has asked for an audit of a $600 million settlement between the state insurance department and defendants accused of fraudulently acquiring the assets of the now-defunct insurer Executive Life. Speier met with the Executive Life Action Network on Friday and agreed to hold a hearing to request the state audit, the Daily News of Los Angeles reported. Executive Life failed in 1991 after its portfolio of junk bonds lost much of its value. The state took over the insurer and then auctioned off its assets.

Arnold to Rein in Runaway Production With Tax Lures
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is looking to terminate runaway production, Variety reported. The governor is completing his long-awaited legislative proposal to match the generous tax incentives from other states and countries that have been drawing the movie business outside of the Golden State. The plan is expected to give tax credits for productions that spend at least 75 percent of their budget in California, with a relatively high maximum credit.

Democrats Hope to Steer Gas-Tax Money Back to Roads
With the state mired in debt and deep cuts looming, it is unclear how soon the Legislature will act to protect an estimated $1.2 billion a year generated by the sales taxes collected every time motorists fill up. So, South Bay Assemblywoman Jenny Oropeza is pushing constitutional amendments to give voters an opportunity to curtail the state's ability to siphon gas-tax dollars that voters intended to be spent on freeways, potholes and mass transit, the Daily Breeze reported. An escape clause in Proposition 42 allows the state to take money when cash runs short for other programs.

Gardena's Financial Mess is the Focus of Campaigning
Depending on which political candidate is talking, Gardena is either at a crossroads or already on the road to recovery, the Daily Breeze reported. Incumbent Mayor Terrence Terauchi points to the city's progress as a $5 million operating deficit turned into a $3 million surplus during the past five years. But his challenger, Councilman Paul Tanaka, says the city has done little to deal with the debt it accumulated during a decade of bad investments. In the March 8 election, the two candidates for mayor are trying to paint themselves as most qualified to find a way out of the financial mess.

Defense Budget Doesn't Alarm Northrop
In a Los Angeles Times interview about the shrinking defense budget, Northrop Grumman Corp.'s Chairman and Chief Executive Ronald D. Sugar said the company will hire 3,000 people, with a net gain of about a thousand new jobs this year, in Redondo Beach, El Segundo and Palmdale. Sugar also said that the next big aircraft competition is likely to pit Northrop against Boeing to build unmanned combat vehicles, something Boeing already is taking the lead in with test flights of its X-45A prototype plane.

Legislators Rush to File Final Bills
With only one day left to propose new legislation, California lawmakers are preparing to launch debates over several social issues and renew confrontations with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger over bills he vetoed last year, the Los Angeles Times reported. Some Democrats want to permit doctor-assisted suicide and sanction gay marriage. They also plan to try again to get driver's licenses for illegal immigrants, help Californians buy prescription drugs from Canada, and to raise the minimum wage. Republicans want to stiffen criminal penalties, create tax breaks and end conjugal visits for imprisoned felons.

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