ABC7 WEATHER: Mostly sunny, windy, with highs in the upper 30s. http://wj.la/72e8x6
‘GOOD MORNING WASHINGTON’: Among the reports – George Washington University will host the D.C. mayoral candidate forum; New and improved food labels on the way; much more, beginning at 4:30 a.m. M-F.
MEDICAID MUDDLE: And so it goes, per the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “The battle of the budget ended Wednesday as it began: locked horns over Medicaid and expansion of health insurance coverage for the poor. Conferees tasked with hammering out differences between competing budgets from the House of Delegates and the Virginia Senate met Wednesday with Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a champion of a health care provision that is the sharpest contrast between the two spending plans.
“The group met hours before each chamber formally rejected the other’s budget, sending them into a conference committee. The Senate’s budget includes a private option to extend insurance to about 250,000 of the state’s uninsured — an alternative to straight Medicaid expansion under the federal health care law. House Republicans oppose the plan and argue that it should not be included in the budget that must pass by July 1 to fund basic government services. But attendees at Wednesday’s budget meeting in the Capitol didn’t even agree on what was said.” http://bit.ly/1pwRs09
VIRAL VIDEO: Of upset cops, per the Baltimore Sun, “When Sergio Gutierrez pulled out his iPhone to film an arrest taking place outside of The Greene Turtle on York Road in Towson late Saturday, he didn't expect the video would go viral. But when Baltimore County police officers saw Gutierrez standing there among other bystanders, holding up the phone, they intervened.
"Everything was going fine for maybe, like, the first 10, 20 seconds or so," he said Wednesday, after the video was picked up and spread by the website, PhotographyIsNotACrime.com. "Then one of the police officers noticed that I was filming and approached me and told me to get out of his face.” Gutierrez, a 21-year-old business technology administration major at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, asserted he was acting within his First Amendment rights and continued to film. Footage from the 2 1/2-minute video shows several officers approaching Gutierrez and asking him to stop filming.” http://bsun.md/1jCtQnr
DISTRICT LGBT ISSUES: An admission, per the Washington Post, “D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier acknowledged Wednesday that the department has “fallen short” in building strong bonds with gay men and lesbians and victims of hate crimes, and she vowed to implement many of the recommendations of a task force convened at her request. Lanier said in the task force’s report that the department needs “to revise and update training across the board” in relation to LGBT issues and victims of hate crimes. She added that the department won’t expand its liaison officers program for now, although “it is clear that the performance and commitment of current members must be reviewed and evaluated.”
“After repeated outcries of bias from activists in recent years, Lanier called for a task force in 2011 to evaluate the department’s handling of hate crimes and a relationship that had soured between D.C. police and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Task force members interviewed community members, D.C. police and others to produce the 51-page report.” http://wapo.st/1fKuU85
MEANWHILE: Rejected, per the Arizona Republic, “Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer silenced the vitriolic outcry over Senate Bill 1062 with a veto early Wednesday evening, eliciting relief from opponents who said it would lead to discrimination and hurt the state’s economy and reputation, and disappointment from supporters who maintained the bill’s intent had been distorted. A somber Brewer announced her decision in a rare news conference in the rotunda outside her office.
“Senate Bill 1062 ... could divide Arizona in ways we cannot even imagine and no one would ever want,” she told the room packed with journalists from around the country. “Let’s turn the ugliness of the debate over Senate Bill 1062 into a renewed search for greater respect and understanding among all Arizonans and Americans.” SB 1062 would have offered a legal defense for individuals and businesses facing discrimination lawsuits if they proved they had acted on a “sincerely held religious belief.” Opponents argued it would legalize discrimination, in particular, allowing businesses to refuse to serve the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.” http://bit.ly/1hqrozr
PRAY: But privately, per the Virginian-Pilot, “Legislation aimed at ensuring students' right to pray and engage in other religious expression at school has passed the General Assembly, but not by sufficient margins to overcome a promised veto by Gov. Terry McAuliffe. State Sen. Bill Carrico's bill (SB236) passed the House of Delegates on a 64-34 vote Wednesday. It had earlier cleared the Senate, 20-18. Neither vote is enough to override a veto, which requires a two-thirds majority.
“A spokesman for McAuliffe has said he will veto the measure because of concerns about its constitutionality. The legislation from Carrico, R-Grayson County, spells out the right of students to voluntarily pray or engage in religious activities at school, organize prayer groups and other religious gatherings, and wear clothing, accessories and jewelry that display religious messages or symbols.” http://bit.ly/1pwTwoX
WEED WARS: Or something like that, per the New York Times, “A little over a year after Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana, more than half the states, including some in the conservative South, are considering decriminalizing the drug or legalizing it for medical or recreational use. That has set up a watershed year in the battle over whether marijuana should be as available as alcohol. Demonstrating how marijuana is no longer a strictly partisan issue, the two states considered likeliest this year to follow Colorado and Washington in outright legalization of the drug are Oregon, dominated by liberal Democrats, and Alaska, where libertarian Republicans hold sway.
“Advocates of more lenient marijuana laws say they intend to maintain the momentum from their successes, heartened by national and statewide polls showing greater public acceptance of legalizing marijuana, President Obama’s recent musings on the discriminatory effect of marijuana prosecutions and the release of guidelines by his Treasury Department intended to make it easier for banks to do business with legal marijuana businesses. Their opponents, though, who also see this as a crucial year, are just as keen to slow the legalization drives. They are aided by a wait-and-see attitude among many governors and legislators, who seem wary of pushing ahead too quickly without seeing how the rollout of legal marijuana works in Colorado and Washington.” http://nyti.ms/1fsvUt2
UKRAINE UPDATE: Just the facts, per the Associated Press, “Ukraine put its police on high alert after dozens of pro-Russia gunmen stormed and seized local government buildings in Ukraine's Crimea region early Thursday and raised a Russian flag over a barricade. Ukraine's acting president said that if Russian forces leave their base in the strategic peninsula that “will be considered a military aggression.” Russia maintains a large naval base in southern Crimea that has strained relations between the countries for two decades.
“The renewed tension in the peninsula that houses Russia's Black Sea fleet comes as lawmakers in Kiev were expected to approve the new government in the wake of the president fleeing the capital after months of protests over his decision to scuttle an agreement with the European Union in favor of stronger ties with Russia. Russia has questioned the legitimacy of the new Ukrainian authorities after pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych fled last week, and it has accused them of failing to control radicals who threaten the Russia-speaking population in Ukraine's east and south, which includes the Crimean Peninsula.” http://lat.ms/1hBW3Zw
POLITICO PLAY: “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid isn’t budging on a proposal to hike the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. But not all of his Democratic colleagues are following their leader on the issue, which is key to the party’s election-year messaging. In fact, moderate Democrats — including a handful up for reelection this year — are weighing support of a more modest increase designed to attract Republicans that could save them from having to oppose a tough bill before November.
“But liberals and party leaders are standing firm, a position that could leave low-income workers with no wage increase at all in 2014. Reid sees little reason to negotiate on the $10.10 hourly rate given a widely held Democratic belief that Republicans will reflexively oppose any rate increase, no matter how low. Asked Tuesday if there’s a path to an eventual compromise, the Nevada Democrat said simply: “Not with me.” http://politi.co/N6sGW2
TAXING ISSUE: Literally, per The Hill, “Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) divided Washington’s powerful industry groups into warring camps on Wednesday with his no-holds-barred proposal for tax reform. The release of the plan, which was years in the making, revealed one of the most closely held secrets in Washington: the tax breaks that the Ways and Means chairman thinks should be sacrificed in the name of a simpler, fairer system.
"Industry groups on the losing end of Camp’s proposal were swift to denounce it, with one of the most vocal protests coming from the hedge fund industry, which saw its treasured carried-interest provision singled out for elimination. “Chairman Camp's proposal penalizes long-term capital investment, which he and other members of the House Ways and Means Committee have purported to support,” said Steve Judge, president and CEO of the Private Equity Growth Capital Council.” http://bit.ly/1ftgq7U
NET RESULT: Rather, nyet, per Gazette.Net, “A funny thing happened on the way to new school construction money for Montgomery County: reality. Midway through Maryland’s 90-day legislative session, county lawmakers seem to hold little hope of their top legislative priority passing the General Assembly and establishing a steady, predictable stream of state money to leverage borrowing for school construction.
“We’re not necessarily expecting it to pass,” Del. Anne R. Kaiser said. Kaiser (D-Dist. 14) of Burtonsville, chairwoman of Montgomery’s delegation, proposed a bill to establish the Supplemental Public School Construction Matching Fund Program. Under the bill, counties with a triple-A bond rating and school systems with at least 100,000 students would be eligible for up to $20 million each year to fund a portion of school construction projects or project debt. Her House bill has 62 sponsors; a Senate version has 19. Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) said in an interview that it looks like Montgomery will not get the school construction money it seeks, but that it should.” http://bit.ly/1cMRYlp
SILVER LINE: Why not a gold line?, per the Loudoun Times-Mirror, “As the Loudoun Board of Supervisors has signaled in recent months, Loudoun County plans to apply for a $200 million federal loan to help pay its share of extending Metro’s Silver Line into Loudoun. The county’s participation in a nearly $1.9 billion package with other funding partners seems to help solidify that the second phase of the Metro project, bringing the train to Loudoun, will stay on track. The federal loan would cover about one-third of the expenses for the project's second phase, variously estimated to cost between $5.6 billion and $6.8 billion to complete.
“The financing for Phase Two comes as the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority announced new delays in opening the first phase of the Silver Line, originally scheduled to begin passenger service to Tysons Corner and Reston by the end of 2013. Continuing problems with a key safety component have pushed the opening to late spring or summer. Assuming financing is in order and second phase construction hits deadlines, the Metro Silver Line will run to Loudoun County by 2018.” http://bit.ly/1fth6uf
UNWANTED WATER: And fees, per the Frederick News-Post, “Republican lawmakers Wednesday pitched three bills to roll back the state mandate for a stormwater fee in Frederick County and other jurisdictions. State leaders need to step back and reformulate a strategy for cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, the GOP legislators said. To that end, the bills under consideration Wednesday would reverse a 2012 law requiring the state's 10 largest jurisdictions to establish a stormwater fee, known by its critics as a "rain tax."
“Delegates Wayne Norman Jr., R-Harford, Gail Bates, R-Howard, and Patrick McDonough, R-Baltimore County, sponsored the repeal bills. In a news conference before they presented their proposals to the House Environmental Matters Committee, the GOP lawmakers said the stormwater requirement unfairly targets a handful of counties. The fee mandate does not apply to 14 Maryland counties, many of them in southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, repeal supporters noted.” http://bit.ly/N6s6rl
BUMPY RIDE: And then some, per ARLnow, “A third of Arlington’s roads are ripe for rapid potholes, according to a study conducted by county staff. Those roads fall below 60 percent on the Pavement Condition Index scale, which is an indicator that those roads are susceptible to “more rapidly” developing potholes. On average, Arlington’s roads sit at 69.8 percent, according to county Water, Sewer and Streets Bureau Chief Harry Wang.” http://bit.ly/Mx8Mmb
TRENDING ON ABC7 FACEBOOK: “A proposed measure in Maryland called "Jake's Law" could make it a misdemeanor to cause accidents resulting in serious injury -- if the driver at fault was talking/texting on a cellphone. The measure is named after 5-year-old Jake Owen, who back in 2011 was inside of a stopped minivan when a texting driver slammed into it going 60 miles per hour.” http://wj.la/1jBjT9T
NEWSTALK: Among today’s guests (10 a.m., NewsChannel 8) is D.C. Councilwoman Mary Cheh, who will be asked about the latest controversies to hit D.C. Fire-EMS, the soccer stadium deal and the race for mayor.