ABC7 WEATHER: Partly sunny with highs in the upper 50s. http://wj.la/72e8x6
‘GOOD MORNING WASHINGTON’: Among the reports – The latest on the search for Relisha Rudd; much more, beginning at 4:30 a.m. M-F.
STAR POWER: That’s the plan, per the Baltimore Sun, “Kevin Spacey, the star of the hit TV show "House of Cards," will visit Annapolis to schmooze with legislators Friday night as they weigh the fate of a film tax credit that has contributed millions to the show during its two years of production in Maryland. Spacey, who plays the scheming Francis Underwood in the Netflix political drama, will bring star power to his production company’s lobbying efforts for a bill to increase the amount of money allocated to the credit over the amount in Gov. Martin O’Malley’s budget.
“The Oscar–winning actor will meet and greet senators and delegates, all of whom have been invited by lobbyist Gerard E. Evans, to a two-hour evening reception at the Red Red Wine Bar on Main Street. The producers of "House of Cards" are backing an effort to increase the amount of money the state can use for the credit next year from the $11 million budgeted by to $18.5 million. “House of Cards” would be in line for much of that money to defray its production costs here. . . The Senate passed legislation Monday raising the amount to $18.5 million. The funding level would have to be worked out in discussions with the House.” http://bit.ly/PVlIos
GIVING: And receiving, per the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s inaugural committee brought in more than $2 million from 582 donors, the bulk of whom also gave to his campaign — though 13 gave only to his opponent, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. McAuliffe’s inaugural haul topped former Gov. Bob McDonnell’s committee donations in 2010 of $1.9 million, but it fell short of former Gov. Timothy M. Kaine’s $3.1 million in 2006 and former Gov. Mark R. Warner’s $2.5 million in 2002.
“VPAP, a nonpartisan tracker of money in politics, reports that 172 of McAuliffe’s inaugural fund donors gave only to his campaign; 38 gave to both his campaign and his Republican opponent, Ken Cuccinelli; 13 gave only to Cuccinelli; and the remainder did not donate to either campaign. The donors who gave to Cuccinelli’s campaign fund but not McAuliffe’s include Comcast, MeadWestvaco, Silver Honaker Development Co. LLC, Cyberdata Technologies Inc., AOL, LeClairRyan, Virginia Credit Union League, NOVA Technology Council, The Virginia Farm Bureau and Virginia State Police Association, according to VPAP.” http://bit.ly/1h05JLr
GRAY’S NEWSTALK APPEARANCE: In a word, feisty, per the Washington Post, “Mayor Vincent C. Gray said Thursday that if he is indicted by federal prosecutors, he will not leave office to fight the charges. In a morning television interview, Gray reiterated his innocence and said he will “absolutely” remain on the job if charged. “I’m not going to walk away from this situation,” he said.
“. . . On NewsChannel 8 on Thursday, Gray was asked to respond to the suggestion made last week by one of his campaign foes, D.C. Council member Vincent B. Orange, that plea talks are underway. “I believe that the mayor will make a decision, and he will make a decision real soon, because I believe that there are conversations now going on with the U.S. attorney and Mr. Gray’s legal team,” said Orange (D-At Large.) Gray bristled at that suggestion Thursday, calling Orange’s comments “preposterous,” “irresponsible” and “absurd.” His attorney, Robert S. Bennett, said in a subsequent interview that the mayor and Machen's office are not engaged in negotiations.” http://wapo.st/1iJv7cR
MEANWHILE: per City Paper, “. . . Gray also defended yesterday's endorsement event with Marion Barry, in which Barry veered into racial language that can't be appetizing for Gray less than two weeks before the primary. Gray said he did not asked Barry to stay on-message before the event started. “I’m not going to try to script him, and he’s not going to try to script me," Gray said.” http://bit.ly/1kOJIDT
‘THE SYSTEM WORKED’: Just the facts, per the Associated Press, “The Army general at the center of a sexual misconduct case that put the military justice system itself on trial was spared prison Thursday and sentenced to a reprimand and a $20,000 fine — a punishment legal experts, a women's group and members of Congress condemned as shockingly light. Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair, 51, immediately announced his retirement, capping a humiliating fall for the battle-tested commander once regarded as a rising star in the Army. A disciplinary board could still bust him in rank and severely reduce his pension.
"The system worked. I've always been proud of my Army," Sinclair said outside court after reacting to his sentence with a smile and an embrace for his lawyers. "All I want to do now is go north and hug my kids and my wife." The former deputy commander of the storied 82nd Airborne Division was originally brought up on sexual assault charges punishable by life in prison. He was believed to be the highest-ranking U.S. military officer ever court-martialed on such charges.” http://bit.ly/1gESAqz
UKRAINE: Of sanctions, per the New York Times, “President Obama expanded sanctions against Russia on Thursday, blacklisting a bank and several wealthy businessmen with close ties to President Vladimir V. Putin, as the United States struggled to forestall further Russian incursions into Ukraine. Among those targeted were Sergei B. Ivanov, the president’s chief of staff; Gennady N. Timchenko, a billionaire investor with links to Mr. Putin; and Yuri V. Kovalchuk, whom the administration described as the personal banker for Russian leaders, including the president.
“Mr. Obama also opened the door to more sweeping measures against core parts of the Russian economy, including the oil and natural gas industries, which account for much of Russia’s exports. He said the actions could disrupt the global economy, but might be necessary because of what he described as menacing movements by the Russian military near eastern and southern Ukraine. Administration officials insisted that the new sanctions would have more bite than the initial ones Mr. Obama announced on Monday. But it remains unclear whether they will be enough to put a brake on Mr. Putin, who brushed aside the previous measures and moved swiftly to annex Crimea.” http://nyti.ms/1eYmiXS
MEANWHILE: Of mixed messages, per The Hill, “President Obama’s reliance on the bully pulpit to bump up ObamaCare’s enrollment and hammer Republicans in an election year is facing a serious challenge with the crisis in Ukraine. The worst U.S.-Russia crisis since the Cold War is taking up a significant amount of the administration’s oxygen, complicating the president's efforts to get his message out.
“On Thursday, Obama sought to put the spotlight on higher pay for women, an election-year issue Democrats believe they can turn to their advantage in November. But his event in Orlando was largely overshadowed by his announcement earlier in the day of new sanctions on Moscow, part of a showdown with Russian President Vladimir Putin.” http://bit.ly/1hMjdfF
GUNS: And more guns, per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “The fate of a sweeping expansion to Georgia’s gun laws, the subject of much debate and consternation over the course of the past two legislative sessions, was decided in the final hour of the 2014 session late Thursday. House Bill 60 received final passage by a vote of 112-58 and now goes to Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk. The approval came despite national efforts by opponents to defeat what they dubbed the “guns everywhere” bill.
“Rep. Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper, the main sponsor of the House’s effort on gun legislation, said it’s been a “long and winding road.” “The House has finally come along for Georgia’s gun owners,” said Sen. Bill Heath, R-Bremen. As lawmakers negotiated behind the scenes, there appeared to be two sticking points: whether to force churches to allow weapons holders to carry guns into houses of worship and whether Georgia will legalize silencers, known technically as suppressors.” http://bit.ly/1r42z1x
POLITICO PLAY: “The claim has hardened into accepted fact among many Democratic operatives: Hillary Clinton is freezing the Democratic 2016 field as she waits until possibly late this year to decide on another presidential run. It’s virtually impossible for anyone other than Clinton to raise money or build a campaign infrastructure, the thinking goes, with Clinton hovering overhead.
“Yet Clinton’s allies believe it’s not true — and increasingly they are saying so. In fact, they argue the opposite: that the former first lady is shielding other prospective Democratic contenders from months of attacks and scrutiny they’d probably face without her in the picture. There’s simply no need for Clinton to start a campaign this early, they say.” http://politi.co/1ilea7M
GENDER IDENTITY: In the balance, per Gazette.Net, “Opponents of a bill to include gender identity in Maryland’s anti-discrimination laws are warning it could be challenged in a referendum if the measure passes this session. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr., would add gender identity as a protected category, protecting transgendered people from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations — including restaurants, bars, movie theaters, stores, and coffee shops.” http://bit.ly/1d4QpBz
CHARTING A COURSE: Kind of, per the Frederick News-Post, “Maryland's charter school laws are among the worst in the nation, according to two studies released this year. The Washington-based Center for Education Reform and National Alliance for Public Charter Schools evaluated the content and implementation of charter school laws in 42 states and the District of Columbia.
“In January, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools named Maryland last out of 43 in its own ranking of charter school laws. The state dropped from 42 to 43 in the National Alliance ranking. The 2014 Center for Education Reform scorecard released March 17 showed that Maryland scored 39th — two places lower than in 2013. Three public charter schools are now open in Frederick County: Carroll Creek Montessori, Monocacy Valley Montessori and Frederick Classical. Officials at the Montessori schools did not respond to a request for comment on the ratings.” http://bit.ly/1g7z5LV
OBIT: Sam Riley, per the Roanoke Times, “A longtime Virginia Tech journalism professor known for his satirical newspaper commentaries died Wednesday. Sam Riley, 74, came to Tech in 1981 and was at his death still teaching full time in the university’s Communications Department, according to Tech spokesman Larry Hincker.” http://bit.ly/PVlIos
SPORTS, BRIEFLY: Wizards lose 116-103 against Portland; Caps lose 2-1 against L.A. Kings.
TRENDING ON ABC7 FACEBOOK: “Another Amber Alert has been issued for an 11-year-old Virginia boy named Lucas Guinn, who is believed to be in extreme danger. According to police, Guinn may be traveling in a 2004 purple freightliner tractor with Virginia tags: 78471PY.” http://wj.la/OCzgUX
NEWSTALK: 10 a.m., NewsChannel 8.