DAYBREAK DAILY: Ill-timed letter has Va. transportation in a flux

ABC7 TRAFFIC: ‘Good Morning Washington’ has updates every 10 minutes beginning at 4:30 a.m.

ABC7 WEATHER: Good chance of light snow and/or rain and ice pellets through the day with highs in the upper 30s.

‘GOOD MORNING WASHINGTON’: Among the stories – Ongoing coverage of a Rockville elementary school teacher accused of sexual abuse; Millicent West and a tax-fraud case (see below); much more, beginning at 4:30 a.m.

TRENDING ON ABC7 FACEBOOK: It's already against the law in D.C. to smoke inside bars and restaurants, and outside of certain buildings. The latest proposal would ban smoking in other places, including in and around playgrounds and city parks. Should smoking be banned in more places or have we gone too far? ABC7's Steve Chenevey reports:

ROAD TO NOWHERE?: Of transportation and a letter, per the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “The two most important issues before the General Assembly — new funding for transportation needs and expansion of Medicaid — could converge today in a tense political showdown prompted by a letter from Gov. Bob McDonnell that may undermine his biggest legislative priority.

“The letter, vowing not to consider expansion of Medicaid in Virginia if it would increase “the immoral national debt,” prompted Senate Democrats to threaten on Thursday to withhold support for the transportation package endorsed by McDonnell and Republican legislative leaders, while House Democrats vowed not to support the proposed budget without the Medicaid expansion.”

AND THIS: It just gets stranger, per the Virginian-Pilot, “. . .The timing of the letter angered Democrats, who strongly favor Medicaid expansion under the federal health care act. That could complicate passage of the road-funding bill. Although Democrats are a minority in the Senate and House of Delegates, they still hold leverage on transportation because their votes are probably needed to pass the plan. . . It was unclear Thursday evening whether the prospects of getting a road-funding deal this session had been irreparably harmed. Legislators hoped to vote on the bill today.

“Sen. Louis Lucas, D-Portsmouth, said Thursday that McDonnell's missive had the effect of "pouring gasoline on a fire that was almost out." "People are really ticked about the whole thing," she said. McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said that transportation and Medicaid are unrelated and that legislators are capable of debating multiple issues at once.”

SITUATION SEQUESTRATION: Military finally has its say, per the Washington Post, “After staying largely on the sidelines of the debate over deficit reduction, the U.S. military’s service leaders have begun painting a stark picture of the toll a congressionally mandated budget cut could take on the readiness of the world’s largest armed forces. The $46 billion dent to the Pentagon’s fiscal 2013 budget, long considered by the brass as nothing more than a political pawn, has taken on an air of inevitability, forcing commanders across the military to plan for painful reductions and argue that American lives and livelihoods are hanging in the balance.”

COMING AROUND: With no small amount of wariness, per the New York Times, “Under pressure from the health care industry and consumer advocates, seven Republican governors are cautiously moving to expand Medicaid, giving an unexpected boost to President Obama’s plan to insure some 30 million more Americans. The Supreme Court ruled last year that expanding Medicaid to include many more low-income people was an option under the new federal health care law, not a requirement, tossing the decision to the states and touching off battles in many capitols.”

KEEPING TRACK: Sometimes it’s difficult, per City Paper, “Millicent West, the former head of the Children & Youth Investment Trust Corp., was charged with tax fraud (Thursday), court records show. The charges are related to her role in former Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr.'s theft of more than $350,000 in city funds, says a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office.”

LIFE OR DEATH?: In Maryland, that’s the question, per the Baltimore Sun, “The General Assembly took an important step toward repealing Maryland's death penalty Thursday night when a key committee, for the first time in decades, approved a bill to end capital punishment. The Senate Judicial Proceedings committee voted 6-5 to send Gov. Martin O'Malley's death penalty bill to the Senate floor, with Sen. Robert A. Zirkin, a Baltimore County Democrat, dropping his long-held opposition to repeal of capital punishment and providing the decisive vote.”

POLITICO PLAY: “DANBURY, Conn. – Two months after the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting and a dozen miles from Newtown, Vice President Joe Biden came here Thursday to raise the rhetoric on gun control: Stalling lawmakers are cowards.”

SERIOUS STUFF: Just the facts, per ABC7 – WJLA, “The stories-tall motto outside the D.C. Fire and EMS training academy in Washington reads “Honor, Commitment, Dedication.” But a number of young female cadets, only a month into their apprenticeship, may be questioning those department ideals. ABC7 has learned that at least two cadets have accused two instructors of sexual harassment.”

INSIDE THE DISTRICT: More like inside baseball, per the Washington Examiner, “D.C. Councilman Jim Graham sought Thursday to defuse the threat of a rare reprimand by District lawmakers, locking himself into an extraordinary legal and political drama that pitted him against the city's ethics board and D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson.”

AT THE PUMP: Do I hear 5?, per the Washington Times, “Average gas prices topped $4 a gallon in the District on Thursday for only the fifth time ever, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic. Thursday also marked the 35th straight day of increases that have seen gas prices rise by a total 42 cents. And while prices in the D.C. suburbs are about 16 cents per gallon cheaper, they are still above the national average of $3.78.”

EXPLORING OPTIONS: Of 911, per ARLnow, “The matter of keeping up with current technology is prompting county workers to investigate whether Arlington’s 911 system can soon upgrade and add a texting option. While it appears texting eventually will be added to the mix, it isn’t imminent.”

SPORTS, BRIEFLY: Caps lose 3-2 against New Jersey.

SHOWTIME: This is how they do it, per the Los Angeles Times, “A memorial service perfectly suited to Jerry Buss: glitz, grace and some goofiness. Lakers greats past and present show up to remember the team's owner, who died Monday. Phil Jackson fights back tears, Shaquille O'Neal recalls calling Buss' bluff and Kobe Bryant reminds his teammates of their duty going forward.”

NEWSTALK: Covering a variety of topics (10 a.m., NewsChannel 8), including the recent spate of killings in Prince George’s County.

--Skip Wood

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