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The AM Alert

The California Air Resources Board faces its first big test of the Mary Nichols era today, as the board considers adoption of diesel regulations to improve the state's air quality.

Construction firms and others that operate the state's estimated 180,000 off-road diesel vehicles are opposing the regulations.

The Education Coalition continues to keep the pressure on for Senate Republicans to pass a budget, hosting a news conference in Salinas. That would be in the district of potential GOP swing vote Sen. Jeff Denham.

Back in Sacramento, on California's budget security threat level, it's code red as the rhetoric is heating up.

Democrats and Republicans tossed charges back and forth Wednesday about taking the budget hostage and terrorizing the system.

And then ... Osama bin Laden showed up.

"I simply held up a picture of Osama bin Laden in order for Senator Perata ... to know what a terrorist looks like," said Sen. Dave Cox, R-Kabul, on Wednesday. "We happen to be Republican senators who believe we need a better budget to move California ahead."

Though Senate Republicans detailed more than $800 million in proposed cuts on Wednesday, Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Kandahar, says the GOP hasn't held up their end of the budgeting bargain, providing a budget that all 15 Senate Republicans will support.

"We will not take up your supplemental bill proposing cuts to the budget until and unless you can produce 15 votes on the connected budget bill itself," the Kandahar leader said in a letter to GOP chief Dick Ackerman of Jalalabad.

It remains unclear whether the full Senate will take up the budget today.

Capitol Alert, reporting live, from Afghanistan.