News Bits: June 29, 2009

Assembly Democrats approve majority vote budget fix

BRIAN JOSEPH, Orange County Register:  Exploiting a legislative loophole, Assembly Democrats late Sunday passed a tax increase and other fixes to bridge the state’s $24.3 billion deficit without a single Republican vote.

Typically, tax increases and budget votes require a two-thirds majority. Since just over one third of the Assembly is controlled by Republicans, that means Democrats need at least a handful of GOP votes.

But under the plan approved late Sunday, the Democrats were able to approve the tax increases and budget fixes, which come close to solving the entire deficit, on a simple majority vote.

The State Senate is scheduled to vote on the same plan starting at 9:30 a.m. today.

Bernard Madoff Gets Maximum 150 Years in Prison

NEW YORK (AP) — Historic swindler Bernard Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison Monday for a fraud so extensive that the judge said he needed to send a symbolic message to potential imitators and to victims who demanded harsh punishment.

Scattered applause and whoops broke out in the crowded Manhattan courtroom after U.S. District Judge Denny Chin issued the maximum sentence to the 71-year-old defendant, who said he lives “in a tormented state now, knowing all the pain and suffering I’ve created.”

Chin rejected a request by Madoff’s lawyer for leniency and said he disagreed that victims of the fraud were seeking mob vengeance.

“Here the message must be sent that Mr. Madoff’s crimes were extraordinarily evil and that this kind of manipulation of the system is not just a bloodless crime that takes place on paper, but one instead that takes a staggering toll,” Chin said.

White firefighters win Supreme Court appeal

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court ruled Monday that white firefighters in New Haven, Conn., were unfairly denied promotions because of their race, reversing a decision that high court nominee Sonia Sotomayor endorsed.