DAYBREAK DAILY: Cuccinelli issues 11th-hour rulings before departing

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‘GOOD MORNING WASHINGTON’: Among the reports – Supreme Court to hear Obama’s recess-appointments case; much more, beginning at 4:30 a.m. M-F.

VOICE FROM THE GRAVE: Or something like that, per the Virginian-Pilot, “During his final days as attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli released a pair of nonbinding opinions that can be read as legal arguments against Gov. Terry McAuliffe's campaign pledges to fight for gay rights and undo abortion restrictions. In one, Cuccinelli, who lost to McAuliffe in the 2013 governor's race, says a governor can't order state officials to permit legally married gay couples to file joint Virginia tax returns because the state bans same-sex marriage and formal recognition of it.

“The other asserts that a governor lacks authority to "issue a policy directive to suspend a regulation that was properly adopted pursuant to a statutory mandate." It appears to target intended protections for gay state employees and efforts to invalidate strict licensing rules for abortion clinics. Both opinions - one was dated Jan. 10, Cuccinelli's last day in office - were provided to Del. Bob Marshall, a Prince William County Republican and social conservative opposed to gay rights and abortion.”

O’MALLEYCARE: The big picture, per the Baltimore Sun, “Gov. Martin O'Malley took his defense of Maryland's struggling health exchange onto national television Sunday after CNN host Candy Crowley described its rollout as "disastrous by most accounts." O'Malley's defense came as Rep. John Delaney of the Western Maryland 6th District renewed his call for the state to abandon its exchange for the federal system, and O'Malley's remarks prompted criticism from some skeptical lawmakers.

“The governor said the state did not drop the ball on the project, despite knowing about problems well before the problematic launch. The creation and launch of the site were riddled with problems, including feuding contractors, shoddy technology and troubled management. "This complex IT challenge had ups and downs every step of the way. There were lots of cautionary lights, lots of red lights, but there were also green lights," O'Malley said. "This was a very complicated endeavor."

MEANWHILE: Better than nothing, per the Frederick News-Post editorial board, “Maryland lawmakers are expected to approve emergency health insurance legislation as early as this week that will retroactively sign up residents left uninsured due to computer glitches with the state's new insurance exchange program. Even though it has the potential to waste up to $10 million in taxpayer money, we favor quick approval of this legislation, because uninsured Marylanders shouldn't be penalized for the incompetence of their elected leaders.

“The problem is that as many as 5,000 residents who tried to get health insurance through the state exchange encountered problems and were left uninsured as of Dec. 31. To fix it, the administration of Gov. Martin O'Malley proposed to temporarily shift these uninsured residents into the Maryland Health Insurance Program (MHIP), a state-administered health insurance program established in 2002 to cover high-risk residents, many with pre-existing conditions, who couldn't get health insurance elsewhere.”

ARM IN ARM: Of an odd pairing, per the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “Concerns over surveillance and collecting of wireless telephone data by the National Security Agency have made strange bedfellows in the state legislature. The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia said it would back a proposal by Del. Robert G. Marshall, R-Prince William, that would force telephone companies to disclose to customers if they provide phone records or metadata to the NSA or other federal agencies.

"Marshall also wants to make it mandatory for the federal government to obtain warrants before tracking devices and obtaining location data, which the ACLU also supports. “We are marching, walking, creeping, slithering towards a police surveillance state, and that’s not compatible with the fundamental premise of our culture and government,” Marshall said in an interview at his state Capitol office. “The Founders didn’t have cellphones, but they had principles. And those principles should govern the policies,” he said.”

GILLESPIE v. WARNER: In the wings, per the Washington Post, “Republican strategist Ed Gillespie’s plans to challenge Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) will likely transform what was widely expected to be a cakewalk for the incumbent into one of the most closely watched and interesting contests of the year. Gillespie, the former lobbyist, Republican National Committee head and Bush White House aide, has told some Virginia Republicans that he will announce this month his plans to challenge Warner, a former governor who is seeking his second Senate term.

“Gillespie’s announcement will instantly change the race into a matchup of two national figures with strong fundraising skills. In a bellwether state that both parties are eager to control, it will also give Virginia’s divided Republican Party a glimmer of hope after being swept in November’s races for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.”

DIRTY WATER: Getting cleaner?, per the Charleston Gazette, “Four days after a coal-processing chemical leaked into the Elk River, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's administration and West Virginia American Water Company were once again unable to give a firm timeline for when water service would be restored to 300,000 residents in the Kanawha Valley. A nine-county area of West Virginia is still under a "state of emergency," with tap water not to be used for anything but flushing toilets and fighting fires, but test results "are trending in the right direction," Tomblin said at a news conference Sunday night.

"I believe that we are at a point where we can say that we see light at the end of the tunnel," Tomblin said. Jeff McIntyre, president of West Virginia American, said that he no longer believes they are "several days" from starting to lift the "do not use" order, but that the ban would not be lifted Sunday.”

MEANWHILE: A problematic culture, per the New York Times, “Last week’s major chemical spill into West Virginia’s Elk River, which cut off water to more than 300,000 people, came in a state with a long and troubled history of regulating the coal and chemical companies that form the heart of its economy. “We can’t just point a single finger at this company,” said Angela Rosser, the executive director of West Virginia Rivers Coalition. “We need to look at our entire system and give some serious thought to making some serious reform and valuing our natural resources over industry interests.”

“She said lawmakers have yet to explain why the storage facility was allowed to sit on the river and so close to a water treatment plant that is the largest in the state. Ms. Rosser and others noted that the site of the spill has not been subject to a state or federal inspection since 1991. West Virginia law does not require inspections for chemical storage facilities — only for production facilities.”

HILLARY: And a list, per The Hill, “Aides on Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign kept a detailed list of party colleagues who staffers believed had betrayed her during the long and bitter primary battle with President Obama, a new book reveals. The list included rankings, with those who were considered the most egregious traitors by Clinton loyalists receiving the worst possible score of 7 on a point scale.

“Then-Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who would ultimately succeed Clinton as Secretary of State in the Obama administration, was among those receiving the blackest of black marks, according to the book HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton by The Hill’s Amie Parnes and Politico’s Jonathan Allen. So too was Kerry’s Senate colleague from Massachusetts, Edward Kennedy, who died in 2009. Also on the political hit-list were Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) as well as Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Rob Andrews (D-N.J.) and Baron Hill (D-Ind).”

POLITICO PLAY: “Last year’s congressional session, derided by many as the least productive ever, is about to get a run for its money. Despite ending the year with a glimmer of bipartisanship after passing a budget agreement and defense bill, lawmakers and aides are predicting this year will be filled mostly with show votes and partisan bickering unlikely to abate until the midterm elections.

“If the first legislative week of 2014 is a guide, those skeptics could very well be proven right. The Senate fell into a familiar state of paralysis, unable to agree on reviving emergency unemployment benefits and instead shifting to insular debates over the chamber’s leadership and procedure.”

ANOTHER APOLOGY: This one’s public, per City Paper, “Mayor Vince Gray tried to put 2010 behind him at his campaign kickoff (Saturday), apologizing for any harm caused by his last mayoral campaign, which remains under federal investigation, but saying that only his opponents and ratings-obsessed reporters will continue to dwell on it.

“I want to apologize for the pain that my campaign—my campaign—caused, and I want to ask your forgiveness for what happened,” Gray told the crowd, earning him a standing ovation and chants of “four more years” at Ward 8's THEARC community center. As with his apology earlier this week on WUSA9, Gray apologized for missing the campaign corruption said he could not, as he put it today, “apologize for the misdeeds of others.” Those others would include Howard Brooks, Thomas Gore, and Vernon Hawkins, all of whom have pleaded guilty to crimes connected to the campaign or the illicit shadow campaign.”

COMPARE AND CONTRAST: Of Metrorail, per DCist, “From the University of North Carolina's School of Government comes this infographic that compares Metro against four other transit systems in major U.S. cities. There's even a comparison of complaints, with D.C.'s three being unreliable service, weekend track work and wait times, and faulty escalators. Take that, BART's dirty bathrooms!”

SPORTS, BRIEFLY: Caps lose 2-1 against Buffalo.

TRENDING ON ABC7 FACEBOOK: “Sam Berns, 17, has died. The teenager's battle with progeria, a rare genetic condition that accelerates the aging process, became the subject of an HBO documentary, 'Life According to Sam.' The Progeria Research Foundation ( announced his death.”

NEWSTALK: Among today’s topics (10 a.m., NewsChannel 8) -- A mistrial is declared in a high-profile local case when a juror suddenly announces she cannot stand in judgement of the accused. We'll talk with UDC law professor Andrew Ferguson, author of "Why Jury Duty Matters."

--Skip Wood