ABC7 WEATHER: Partly sunny with highs in the lower 60s. http://wj.la/72e8x6
'GOOD MORNING WASHINGTON': Among the reports - Details about Prince George's County casino plans to be unveiled; Senate approves sweeping defense bill; much more, beginning at 4:30 a.m. M-F.
KAINE MAKES HIS MARK: For the troops, per the Richmond Times-Dispatch, "The passage of the National Defense Authorizing Act of 2014 in the U.S. Senate Thursday night marks a victory for Sen. Timothy M. Kaine, D-Va., who was able to merge several core provisions of his Troop Talent Act of 2013 into the new legislation that is now headed to President Barack Obama's desk.
"In the compromised version between the two Houses, most of the Troop Talent Act provisions were included and we feel really good about it," Kaine said in an interview Thursday. Kaine had introduced his measure in April, hoping that it would help ease the transition of military personnel from active duty to civilian life. It was Kaine's first legislative proposal after assuming office in January. Transitioning back into civilian life is an issue that many veterans in defense-heavy Virginia are dealing with as they struggle to find employment." http://bit.ly/1dVe4QJ
NO THANKS: We're good, per the Baltimore Sun, "A government watchdog group called on two gubernatorial campaigns to voluntarily forgo fundraising during the upcoming General Assembly session to comply with the spirit of Maryland ethics laws. Both campaigns promptly declined.
"The exchange Thursday came after a Maryland State Board of Elections ruling cleared the way for the campaigns of Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, a Democrat, and Harford County Executive David R. Craig, a Republican, to raise money during the 90-day session despite a law preventing state officials from seeking political contributions during that period." http://bsun.md/1erSEPG
TERRY TIME: No intervention on McDonnell's behalf, per the Virginian-Pilot, "Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe offered praise and sympathy to Gov. Bob McDonnell on Thursday after a newspaper report said federal authorities have delayed a decision on charging the governor in connection with a gift scandal. "My heart goes out to the McDonnell family," said McAuliffe, a Democrat, who noted he first learned of the latest twist in the scandal from a Washington Post article. McAuliffe said he hasn't intervened on McDonnell's behalf, and he lauded the Republican governor for making the transition of power smooth, adding, "my thoughts and prayers are with the McDonnell family."
"He made those comments at a morning news conference in the Capitol to announce his nominees for two cabinet posts. He has asked current Agriculture and Forestry Secretary Todd Haymore to continue and picked former Hampton mayor Molly Ward for natural resources secretary." http://bit.ly/1erb0R8
MEANWHILE: Of an empty seat, per the Washington Post, "With the race for Virginia attorney general over, attention is rapidly turning to the state Senate seat that Attorney General-elect Mark R. Herring (D) will leave behind, a vacancy that could shift control of the evenly divided chamber. State Sen. Mark D. Obenshain (R) conceded the attorney general's race Wednesday after a recount widened Herring's lead from 165 to 900 votes. On election night, it appeared to be the closest statewide election in Virginia history.
"Herring's win will result in a special election, probably in early January, to fill his seat from Virginia's 33rd Senate District, a bellwether district that takes in much of highly competitive Loudoun County. Three candidates are vying for Herring's seat: Republican John Whitbeck, chairman of the state's 10th Congressional District Republican Committee; Democrat Jennifer Wexton, a Leesburg lawyer who made an unsuccessful bid for Loudoun County commonwealth's attorney in 2011; and state Del. Joe T. May, a longtime Republican lawmaker ousted in a primary this year. May recently cut his ties to the GOP and is running as an independent candidate." http://wapo.st/18CywI8
D.C. INVESTIGATION: The never-ending saga, per City Paper, "U.S. Attorney Ron Machen attempted to resolve a document dispute with District Attorney General Irv Nathan by offering to focus his request on Mayor Vince Gray, other Executive Office of the Mayor employees, and the Department of Healthcare Finance, according to letters between Machen and Nathan obtained by LL.
"Machen and Nathan have been at an impasse since November over more than 5,000 documents held by the Office of the Attorney General relating to a city settlement over a dental contract with Chartered, the Medicaid firm owned by alleged shadow campaign financier Jeff Thompson. Machen wants the OAG to hand them over, but Nathan claims that documents related to the $7.5 million settlement in 2011 are protected by attorney-client privilege. Last month, Nathan offered to let a judge view the documents and decide whether they were privileged, as a compromise." http://bit.ly/1friCQ0
OBAMACARE: The latest, per the Associated Press, "People whose existing health care insurance has been canceled because of the Affordable Care Act will not be hit with tax penalties for failing to line up new coverage as required under the law.
"Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says she will use authorities in the law to issue a "temporary hardship exemption" from those penalties. Under another stopgap option Sebelius announced Thursday, those whose plans were canceled will be able to buy a bare-bones catastrophic plan regardless of their age. Such plans had been intended for those under 30." http://apne.ws/J0Jxrl
NSA: And Maryland, per the New York Times, "If President Obama adopts the most far-reaching recommendations of the advisory group he set up to rein in the National Security Agency, much would change underneath the giant antennas that sprout over Fort Meade, Md., where America's electronic spies and cyberwarriors have operated with an unprecedented amount of freedom since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
"No longer would a team of two dozen or so agency analysts be able to type into a computer that there was a "reasonable, articulable suspicion" about the person behind an American telephone number and, in seconds, see every call made to and from that phone followed by the same records for hundreds or thousands of their contacts. Instead, an individual court order would have to be obtained a far slower process that, just months ago, Mr. Obama's intelligence team insisted would be too cumbersome in halting attacks." http://nyti.ms/1fKEWVA
JANET YELLEN: Let's make a deal, per The Hill, "A bit of bipartisan Christmas cheer finally arrived in the Senate around 10 p.m. Thursday. That's when senators locked in an agreement that will set up a series of votes Friday morning as the last of 2013, with Janet L. Yellen's confirmation to head the Federal Reserve Board pushed until the Senate returns on Jan. 6.
"Yellen was arguably the most important nominee that Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had wanted to see completed before Christmas. The agreement eliminates the need for an all-night session into Friday morning or an unusual Saturday session. Under the agreement, the Senate will still have late Thursday votes, with another sequence of confirmation votes Friday morning before limiting debate on the Yellen nomination." http://bit.ly/JOleNQ
POLITICO PLAY: "New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has long avoided wading too deep into the supercharged subject of immigration. But on Thursday, he took a clear position on a piece of the hot-button issue: he's expected to approve a New Jersey DREAM Act.
"The move injects Christie into the explosive immigration debate ahead of his all-but-certain 2016 presidential bid. And Republican observers plugged in to early presidential states say that while the party has sought to moderate on the issue since the last election, Christie would have some explaining to do to skeptical caucus and primary voters." http://politi.co/1esFnXm
IN AGREEMENT: On the issues, per the Frederick News-Post, "After spending the last year talking to city residents during their campaigns, Frederick's newly sworn-in elected officials seem to be on the same page. Mayor Randy McClement and the Board of Aldermen met for the first time Thursday to discuss their budget priorities for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.
"Transportation and economic development projects, public safety, investing in city employees, and supporting code enforcement efforts all topped the list. Nearly all of the officials said increasing police department staffing and technology should be considered." http://bit.ly/1friVtW
SPINNING: Tunes, per DCist, "Another year in the books, another year-end list to commemorate 365 days in music. A recent tradition in DCist history, we've once again racked our collective brains to put together a list of our favorite albums from the past year." http://bit.ly/1cVSsoQ
WATER IS NOT BEER: Remember that case?, per the Charlottesville Daily Progress, "Richmond-area lawyers who specialize in civil action have been retained separately by state Alcoholic Beverage Control agents and the University of Virginia student wrongly arrested earlier this year when agents mistook sparkling water for beer. Elizabeth Daly's lead counsel, James Thorsen of Marchant, Thorsen, Honey, Baldwin & Meyer, has won several multimillion dollar verdicts for his clients, including settlements against the state, according to a biography on the firm's site." http://bit.ly/1gKb8LD
INCENTIVE: And then some, per Gazette.Net, "Upper Marlboro's elected leaders will get a raise effective July 1 doubling the annual salary for commissioners and quadrupling the commission president's salary in hopes of increasing residents' interest in running for office. The town's three commissioners voted unanimously Monday to increase the base commissioner salary to $1,200 per year, up from $600 per year, and the commission president's salary to $15,000 per year, up from $3,600 per year." http://bit.ly/191FfcA
SPORTS, BRIEFLY: Caps lose 5-2 at Philadelphia.
TRENDING ON ABC7 FACEBOOK: "Are you seriously thinking of adopting a pet? Now may be a good time to rescue a new friend. The Washington Humane Society has waived fees on all adoptions through Christmas because of an influx of surrendered pets. In just 48 hours, one of their locations took in 26 surrendered dogs!" Check out available pets: http://wj.la/1cV16DQ
NEWSTALK: Among today's guests (10 a.m., NewsChannel 8) are Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker, who will be asked about casino gambling, the minimum wage, school reform, the 2014 General Assembly session and more. Also, Gordon Peterson talks about the final episode of "Inside Washington," which concludes this weekend after a 25-year run.