- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 21, 2009

Schwarzenegger signs bills to close budget gap

SACRAMENTO | California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state’s legislative leaders spent more than three months - and one final, agonizing week - to find a way to plug California’s $42 billion budget hole.

As painful as that process was, they now face a potentially tougher challenge: persuading voters to agree with their solution.

Mr. Schwarzenegger on Friday signed a package of 34 bills designed to close the shortfall, the end of a months-long impasse that culminated in marathon sessions last week by the state’s legislative leaders. But the budget compromise requires voter approval of five ballot measures during a May 19 special election.

The measures would set a cap on state spending and institute a rainy day fund, authorize the state to sell bonds based on future lottery revenue, shift money from certain social programs and guarantee billions more for schools.

A sixth measure, placed on the ballot as part of last-minute dealmaking to secure the final Republican vote, would be a constitutional amendment to freeze lawmakers’ pay when the state runs a deficit.

The governor made no public comment Friday, but earlier said it was important to start campaigning and raising money for the budget-related measures immediately, since voters head to the polls in just three months.

Three teens killed in shooting

CHICAGO | Authorities say three teenagers have been killed in a shooting on Chicago’s South Side.

Police Sgt. Antoinette Ursitti says the victims were 13, 14 and 17 years old. The shooting occurred Friday afternoon in an alley about a block away from Immaculate Conception School.

One of the victims died at the scene. The others died after being transported to the University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital and to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.

University of Chicago hospital spokesman John Easton identified the 13-year-old as Johnny Edwards. The identities of the other two victims haven’t been released.

A Chicago Police spokeswoman, Officer JoAnn Taylor, says the shooting is under investigation. She says no one is in custody.

Socks the cat dies at 18

Socks, the White House cat during the Clinton administration, has died. He was about 18 - an advanced age for a cat.

Socks had lived with President Bill Clinton’s secretary, Betty Currie, in Hollywood, Md., since the Clintons left the White House in early 2001. He didn’t get along with the Clintons’ dog, Buddy, and aggravated the president’s allergies.

Ms. Currie confirmed Socks’ death Friday evening and said she was “heartbroken.” She did not give details and referred calls to the Clinton Foundation office, which released a statement from the Clintons:

“Socks brought much happiness to Chelsea and us over the years, and enjoyment to kids and cat lovers everywhere. We’re grateful for those memories, and we especially want to thank our good friend, Betty Currie, for taking such loving care of Socks for so many years.”

He was what feline-lovers call a tuxedo cat - mostly black with white down the front and belly and on his feet

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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