Today’s News: Sequester shock; Republicans start over; Water woes

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Sequester impact. Barring a last-minute deal, the federal budget cuts known as sequestration are scheduled to go into effect today. That means billions of dollars in spending reductions in California affecting everything from defense contracts and university research to programs for disabled students. But economists and politicians are split on just how big the impact will be on the state’s economy. AP

Economic outlook. Californians remain in a pessimistic frame of mind about the state’s economy, and few think the job picture will improve much this year. Despite a modest economic recovery, a new Field Poll finds that 72 percent of state voters think the state is still experiencing bad times. That’s down from 88 percent last year, but it marks the sixth straight year of an overwhelmingly gloomy outlook. Field Poll

GOP regroups. California Republicans kick off their annual convention today as a party in turmoil. After stinging election defeats in November, Republicans in both houses of the state Legislature find themselves on the short end of Democratic supermajorities. Republican voter registration is at an all-time low of 29 percent in California, and the party is more than $500,000 in debt. Meanwhile, major internal debates are taking places on such issues as immigration and gay marriage. Former Assembly and Senate leader Jim Brulte is widely expected to be elected party chairman. San Jose Mercury News

Digital billboards. The California Supreme Court says it won’t review a lower court decision ordering two advertising companies to remove nearly 100 digital signs in Los Angeles. But that’s not likely to end the fight over the controversial electronic billboards. Clear Channel Outdoor, which owns dozens of the signs, has already signaled its intent to sue the city for $100 million if it’s ordered to take them down. Clear Channel and CBS Outdoor claim that they put up the signs in the understanding that they had valid permits. L.A. Daily News

Sparse snowpack. This January and February were the driest ever recorded in the Sierra Nevada. The two months saw just 2.3 inches of precipitation. Overall, the Sierra snowpack is about 57 percent of normal, according to state officials. The snowpack is the source of about a third of California’s water. Some Central Valley farmers are being told to expect only about a quarter of their standard allotment – and Southern California water users are being told to expect about 40 percent. AP