DAYBREAK DAILY: Dream Act boosts Maryland graduation rate

ABC7 WEATHER: Mostly sunny with highs in the mid to upper 20s.

‘GOOD MORNING WASHINGTON’: Among the reports – Coverage of the State of the Union address; Yet another shot of snow; much more, beginning at 4:30 a.m. M-F.

LOTS OF CAPS: And gowns, per the Baltimore Sun, “Maryland's high school graduation rate has been climbing steadily for the past four years and reached nearly 85 percent — far above the national average — this past June, according to data released Tuesday. More students from every corner of the state are staying in school to earn a diploma, but the increases were most pronounced among Hispanic and African-American students.

“State education officials credited the passage of Maryland's Dream Act, which gave hope to Hispanic students who want to attend college in the state, as one of the factors for the 2.5 percentage point increase in the graduation rate for Hispanics. The Dream Act, which offers in-state tuition to undocumented college students, "has given a level of hope and possibilities for the future," said state school Superintendent Lillian Lowery.”

IT’S OFFICIAL: Next up could be Medicaid, per the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “Democrats on Tuesday seized control of the evenly divided Virginia Senate from Republicans, relying on the tie-breaking vote of the lieutenant governor, as the GOP did in its takeover two years ago. Through a series of parliamentary motions, Democrats gave themselves majorities on most of the chamber’s 11 committees and replaced Republican chairmen with Democrats.

“Senate Democratic leader Richard L. Saslaw of Fairfax said it is “a good bet” that the Democrat-controlled Senate will now pass a budget that includes a provision for the expansion of Medicaid — the top priority of Gov. Terry McAuliffe. He also said the Democratic caucus will try to reverse course on public education policy that, in his words, “tried to gut local control” of school systems.”

SILVER BUGS: Or something like that, per the Washington Post, “Officials say they are analyzing data collected from the first full test run of Silver Line train service conducted over the weekend but still have no firm date for when work on the $5.6 billion rail project will be completed. Officials would not say when the analysis would be completed.

“People familiar with the test run said it turned up a number glitches, including ones linked to the system’s automatic train control system, a key safety component that controls train movement and speed and ensures proper spacing between trains — an issue that had delayed completion of the project for several months. The individuals asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to speak to the media.”

SOTU: President assertive, per the Los Angeles Times, “Hoping to leave a bruising year in the rearview mirror, President Obama vowed Tuesday to work with Congress when possible but around it when necessary to push ahead with a series of mostly modest steps aimed at helping low- and middle-income families share in the economic recovery. In his State of the Union address, Obama shook off his earlier recession-era rhetoric to envision an increasingly robust economy. He warned Congress not to impede that progress, and swore he would work to shrink the gap between rich and poor left by the years of job losses and depressed wages.

"I believe this can be a breakthrough year for America. After five years of grit and determined effort, the United States is better positioned for the 21st century than any other nation on Earth," Obama told a joint session of Congress in the annual address. "For several years now, this town has been consumed by a rancorous argument over the proper size of the federal government. …When that debate prevents us from carrying out even the most basic functions of our democracy — when our differences shut down government or threaten the full faith and credit of the United States — then we are not doing right by the American people."

MEANWHILE: An analysis, per the New York Times, “The least productive Congress in nearly half a century has rarely looked more out-of-sorts than during the speech that put its members on notice for their irrelevance. That, essentially, was the triumph of the rhetorical trick President Obama employed in his fifth State of the Union address.

“The president’s wish list — a rise in the minimum wage, healthcare that doesn’t dump sick people, resolve to do something over the basic fact of climate change and the scourge of income inequality — is backed in poll after poll by a majority of Americans. What stands in the way of doing something about these issues are the people who sat on their hands Tuesday night in that chamber.”

AND THIS: Thank you for your service, per The Hill, “Cory Remsburg stole the show at Tuesday’s State of the Union address. President Obama’s tribute to the Army Ranger severely wounded on his 10th deployment to Afghanistan brought the entire House chamber to its feet, offering a bipartisan ovation far longer and stronger than for any of the president’s proposals. Remsburg, in fact, commanded the room 30 minutes before Obama even arrived.

“Lawmakers chatting on the House floor and awaiting the arrival of dignitaries stopped to applaud as the uniformed Remsburg, blind in one eye and with only partial use of his left side, struggled down a handful of steep steps to his seat in the front row of the House gallery in first lady Michelle Obama’s box.”

POLITICO PLAY: “Dude, where’s my tax deduction? That’s the question the burgeoning marijuana industry has for the federal government. Tax law bars the businesses from deducting expenses related to the distribution of their product — even if they’re operating legally under state law.

“Pot shops are banned from writing off labor, rent, health insurance, advertising costs or other expenses that most companies deduct to lower their tax bills. The result is a tax rate as high as 80 percent, according to the industry, for those in the 20 states with legal medical marijuana and the two states with recreational pot.”

THAT DOG WILL HUNT: On Sundays, per the Virginian-Pilot, “Here's the latest evidence of a changing Virginia: A decades-old ban on Sunday hunting, long cherished in the state's hinterlands, appears to be on the way out. The House of Delegates voted 71-27 Tuesday to allow hunting on Sundays. If the legislation is approved by the Senate - which passed a similar measure two years ago - and signed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, hunters will be free of the prohibition as of July 1.

“Proponents of the measure portrayed it as an effort to help preserve a disappearing tradition in an urbanizing state by giving hunters another day in the week to stalk their prey. Opponents decried it as the latest in a long line of assaults on the Christian day of worship in an increasingly secular world. The Sunday-hunting ban, which has been on the books since 1930, was once part of a network of "blue laws" prohibiting commerce and other activity on the Christian Sabbath - a network that has been largely shredded in recent decades.”{ }

HISTORY LOCKED: No keys in sight, per City Paper, “The Smithsonian's Arts and Industries building on the National Mall will remain closed for the foreseeable future, the institution announced. Secretary G. Wayne Clough says the Smithsonian cannot afford to reopen the 133-year-old building, which has been closed for renovations since 2004. The facility was originally expected to reopen this summer.

“A statement reads, "After a year of program planning and financial review, the Smithsonian concluded the cost of rehabilitating the building for public use and operating it exceeded available funding sources at this time." Asked what accounts for the budget shortfall, Smithsonian spokesperson Linda St. Thomas writes in an email, "This was about private fundraising for all the interior work as well as programming inside the building."

STORMY WATERS: With no fees, per the Frederick News-Post, “Frederick County’s strong track record of water cleanup efforts should earn it a pass on the requirement to impose a storm-water fee, a state senator argued Tuesday. Sen. David Brinkley was one of several lawmakers who presented bills Tuesday seeking to modify or overturn a state law that mandated what critics have dubbed the “rain tax.” Under the 2012 law, Frederick County and nine other jurisdictions are required to charge a fee to fund storm-water programs.

“But Brinkley, R-District 4, asserted that Frederick County doesn’t need to open a new revenue stream because it has proved able to fund its water quality programs without the fee. The Maryland Department of the Environment recognized these efforts in a May 2013 letter commending Frederick County “for this significant work that is improving water quality,” Brinkley noted to a Senate committee.”

GERMANTOWN MURDERS: Just the facts, per Gazette.Net, “The two women accused of slaying two toddlers in an attempted exorcism in Germantown face charges of first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder, but haven’t been arraigned yet. Lawyers for the women, Zakieya L. Avery and Monifa D. Sanford, said it is too soon to discuss their clients’ cases in detail, including the possibility of them pursuing a “not criminally responsible,” or insanity, defense.

“During bail hearings for the two women this month, prosecutors said both women have a history of mental illness. According to Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy, Avery told police that she once was involuntarily committed for psychiatric care. Sanford told police she has tried to commit suicide twice.”

WAR ON COAL: Or so they say, per the Bristol Herald-Courier, “Local lawmakers, business people and members of the newly formed Virginia Coal and Energy Alliance spoke Tuesday in Richmond against the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed new source performance standards, which would govern new coal-fired power plants. “Coal is the backbone of Southwest Virginia’s economy, and we’re fighting to stop these EPA regulations because they are a threat to the survival of our industry and our region,” said Robert Litton, chairman of the alliance, in a written statement.”

SPORTS, BRIEFLY: Wizards beat Golden State 88-85; Caps beat Buffalo 5-4.

TRENDING ON ABC7 FACEBOOK: “Looks like Super Bowl ticket prices are taking a nosedive. According to online trackers, these highly sought-after tickets are the cheapest since 2002 – right after the September 11 attacks. Prices may rise again, but the current decline is reportedly due to frigid temperatures (fans would rather watch the game at home) and the prospect of having to deal with massive security.”

NEWSTALK: Among today’s guests (10 a.m., NewsChannel 8) is Sirius/XM host Joe Madison, who watched the State of the Union address from the House chamber and will discusses the speech and the reaction to it.

--Skip Wood