National briefs (2/15/13)

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Illinois Senate backs gay-marriage bill

CHICAGO -- The Illinois Senate approved a bill Thursday that would legalize same-sex marriage, inching the home state of President Barack Obama closer to becoming the 10th in the nation, plus the District of Columbia, to allow gay couples the right to wed.

The legislation passed 34-21, a margin that many considered almost impossible, even in the Democratic-controlled Legislature, just a few years ago.

It was unclear Thursday when the Illinois House, where support is believed to be thinner, would take up the legislation. Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, is expected to sign the bill if it reaches his desk.

Dems propose budget deal

WASHINGTON -- Senate Democratic leaders reached agreement Thursday on a $110 billion mix of tax increases and spending cuts to head off automatic spending cuts through the end of the year. But with even some Democrats tepid on the proposal, the chances of a deal before the March 1 deadline have receded.

The Democratic proposal would establish a 30 percent minimum tax rate on incomes higher than $1 million to raise about $54 billion over 10 years. It would raise another $1 billion by subjecting tar sands oil to a tax to pay for oil-spill cleanups and by ending a business tax deduction for the cost of moving equipment overseas.

The remaining $55 billion would come from $27.5 billion in defense cuts from 2015 to 2021 and $27.5 billion in farm-subsidy cuts.

Republicans dismissed the proposal as a worthless gimmick.

Lautenberg won't run

TRENTON, N.J. -- Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg, the oldest member of the U.S. Senate, announced Thursday that he will retire at the end of his current term rather than seek re-election at age 90 next year.

Mr. Lautenberg, who turned 89 last month and is the Senate's last veteran of World War II, was facing growing pressure to step down, including a likely Democratic primary challenge from charismatic Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

Ex-mayor raided charity

SAN DIEGO -- Former San Diego Mayor Maureen O'Connor acknowledged in federal court Thursday that she gambled away millions of dollars that her late husband -- Robert O. Peterson, who founded the Jack in the Box fast-food chain -- had earmarked for charity purposes.

Under a bargain with prosecutors, Ms. O'Connor agreed to make $2 million in restitution; if she violates no further laws in the next two years, the charge may be dismissed.

Ms. O'Connor was the city's first woman mayor, serving from 1986 to 1992.

Largest fraud case

CHICAGO -- Disgraced former Dixon, Ill., comptroller Rita Crundwell was sentenced by a U.S. district judge Thursday to about 191/2 years in prison for what authorities have called the largest municipal fraud in the country's history.

Ms. Crundwell pleaded guilty to stealing nearly $54 million from the small northwest Illinois town over more than two decades.

Also in the nation ...

The last two defendants convicted for helping disgraced financier R. Allen Stanford bilk investors out of more than $7 billion in one of the biggest Ponzi schemes in U.S. history were each sentenced to 20-year prison terms by a federal judge in Texas on Thursday...Officials say burned remains found in a California mountain cabin have been positively identified as fugitive former Los Angeles police officer Christopher Dorner.

-- Compiled from news services

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