Fasten your seat belt. The California Legislature is back in Sacramento, with the Assembly meeting at noon, and the Senate at 2 p.m.
Business in the upper house includes choosing a Republican leader, as Senate GOP leader Bob Dutton announced that he'd step down early this month.
Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, told The Bee's Kevin Yamamura just before Christmas that he expected to replace Dutton. Senate Republicans weren't planning to caucus today before the Senate floor session starts, but stay tuned.
Several Assembly committees meet today -- you can check out their agendas at this link -- but the bigger action will come when Gov. Jerry Brown releases his budget. His deadline is next week -- Tuesday, to be exact. The Bee's Jim Sanders gives a taste of what lawmakers are facing this session in this story.
Also next Tuesday, the California Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on which state Senate maps should be used in this year's elections, as Jim Sanders details in this post.
Tuesday also happens to be the deadline for random sample checks of the signatures gathered for the referendum that would overturn the state Senate district maps that the Citizens Redistricting Commission drew last year. Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties were among those yet to report to the secretary of state as of Tuesday night. Political junkies can check out the numbers at this website. (Editor's note: Both Los Angeles and Riverside reported their figures Wednesday.)
Fun fact: Just one of Mono County's 6,000 or so registered voters signed the petition.
POTUS 2012: Following the presidential contest? Bookmark our delegate tracker at www.sacbee.com/delegates to keep up to speed throughout the primary season on the Republican race. Find the latest analysis, fact-checking and adwatches at www.sacbee.com/president.
CAMPAIGN WATCH: Terry Schanz, who's currently Assemblyman Isadore Hall's legislative director, has thrown his hat in the ring for the Sacramento City Council's 4th District seat. Schanz and his partner, Guy Strahl, live in Land Park. The Bee's Ryan Lillis has more details in this City Beat blog post.
MONEY WATCH: The California Latino Legislative Caucus is holding its "Welcome Back" fundraiser from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Tequila Museo Mayahuel at 12th and K streets in Sacramento. Cost: $1,000.
CAKE AND CANDLES: That birthday train doesn't stop for much, does it -- not even New Year's Day. Legislators celebrating their natal appearances include Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, who turned 58 on New Year's Eve, and Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, R-San Diego, who blew out 36 candles that day as well. Monday was another double day: Assemblyman Curt Hagman, R-Chino Hills, turned 47, and Assemblyman Michael Allen, D-Santa Rosa, turned 65. Today, it's Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani's turn: The Livingston Democrat turns 48. But Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones has her beat: He celebrates the big 5-0 today. Congrats to all.