Today’s News: Mix of joy, sadness at SMC graduation; L.A. courts shedding 500 jobs; Foster care agency fired

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Somber graduation. Hundreds of students walked across the stage to accept their diplomas at Santa Monica College yesterday evening, but it was anything but a typical graduation ceremony.

Present behind the joy and sense of accomplishment was a strong undercurrent of sorrow for those who lost their lives Friday when a gunman killed three people on campus during a wild shooting spree. The graduation took place amid heightened security and included a moment of silence for the victims of the shooting.

Graduating student Claudette Colbert says she wasn’t feeling up to a celebration, but a school guidance counselor convinced her to attend the ceremony. “I’m very glad I did (go). I was actually thanking the counselor because it made you realize that things will happen,” Colbert said. “You must continue. You can’t let anything stop you.”

Meanwhile, more information is coming out about John Zawahri. He had been hospitalized for a psychiatric evaluation in 2006 after police found bomb-making materials at his home. Police searched the home because Zawahri had made violent threats against fellow students at Santa Monica High School. KNBC, L.A. Times

Budget deal. It wasn’t so long ago that budget negotiations in California were an endurance sport, dragging on for weeks and sometimes months. But now it’s the era of Democratic supermajorities. Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic leaders in the Legislature yesterday reached a deal four days before the constitutional deadline. The $96 billion spending plan increases spending on schools, healthcare, welfare and money going toward paying down state debt. More than $1 billion will be stashed away in a rainy day fund. Democrats wanted to use revenue projections from the Legislative Analyst’s Office in drawing up the budget. But they ended up going with more conservative estimates from the Governor’s office. Reuters

Court cuts. More than 500 L.A. County court jobs will be eliminated by the end of the week to close an $85 million budget gap. Many of the positions are unfilled, but more than 175 people will be laid off. The cuts are proceeding even though the budget deal reached the governor and Legislature yesterday restores $63 million to the courts in California for fiscal year beginning July 1st. L.A. County has the largest court system in the state and it’s in line to get about one-third of that money. But L.A. Superior Court officials call the extra funding too little, too late. In addition those being laid off, 139 workers will get demotions. L.A. Times

Canceled contract. L.A. County Supervisors have cancelled the county’s contract with Teens Happy Homes, a private foster care agency accused of child abuse and misspending taxpayer money. Teens – which received more than $3 million a year from the county – was given 90 days to wrap up its business. Hundreds of cases of abuse and neglect have been filed against Teens and an audit found that employees spent money meant for children on such things as beer and cigarettes. The L.A. County District Attorney is weighing possible criminal charges. L.A. Daily News

D.A. rules. L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey is vowing to be more open about evidence of misconduct by police officers and other government employees. Lacey agreed to make the changes earlier this year to settle a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU had sued on behalf of a criminal defense attorney who said Sheriff Lee Baca and his department concealed evidence of assaults by deputies inside county jails. L.A. Daily News

Lead ammo. California is moving to outlaw lead ammo for hunting. The state Senate’s Natural Resources Committee voted yesterday in favor of a bill banning the ammunition. Supporters say spent shot is the largest unregulated source of lead pollution in the U.S. and that the bill would save people and wildlife from poisoning. But critics say non-lead ammo is more expensive and can only be banned federally. California would be the first state in the nation to adopt a ban on lead ammo. AP