DAYBREAK DAILY: Va. House again flexes muscle against Medicaid expansion

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‘GOOD MORNING WASHINGTON’: Among the reports – Maryland wraps up its General Assembly session; U.Conn. beats Kentucky 60-54 to win NCAA basketball title; much more, beginning at 4:30 a.m. M-F.

MEDICAID EXPANSION: Different approach, same result, per the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “State lawmakers traveled two paths on Monday toward expanded health coverage for uninsured Virginians, but both have the same obstacle — the House of Delegates. The Senate Finance Committee, as expected, revived its plan for a private insurance marketplace in its version of the two-year state budget that the House adamantly opposes.

"Hours later, Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s administration testified that it has met the requirements of a budget agreement last year to reform Virginia’s Medicaid program before expanding it — a contention that House members of the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission quickly rejected. . . The five-hour commission meeting produced no consensus or even a vote on whether Virginia has made sufficient progress on reforms of its Medicaid program to allow expansion of coverage to as many as 400,000 uninsured Virginians.”

MEANWHILE: Of yet another approach, per the Washington Post, “A prominent hospital association has picked former governor Robert F. McDonnell’s hard-charging transportation secretary to lead the organization as it continues to push House Republicans to expand Medicaid. The selection of Sean Connaughton as the next president of the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association surprised and upset some people on both sides of the Medicaid debate.

“Connaughton helped McDonnell (R) muscle through several highly controversial transportation projects, including a $1.4 billion highway planned for southeastern Virginia that Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) recently suspended. He has no professional background in health care. His selection suggests that the VHHA is preparing for a bare-knuckle fight with Republicans over whether to expand Medicaid under the federal health-care law known as Obamacare. Connaughton would bring to the battle his GOP credentials as well as a reputation as a brawler.”

MARYLAND CALLS IT A DAY: Rather, a session, per the Baltimore Sun, “By the time confetti fell in Annapolis on Monday night, state lawmakers had loosened marijuana laws, made Maryland the second state in the country to raise its minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and whittled their way through more than 2,600 bills considered during the 434th legislative session.

“The two major votes on marijuana decriminalization and increasing the minimum wage closed out the annual 90-day frenzy of lawmaking. Measures to create stricter penalties for drivers who cause fatal accidents while texting and to revamp Maryland's stalled medical marijuana program also received final passage.”

UKRAINE: Of Russian loyalists, per the New York Times, “Under the attentive eye of Russian state television, several hundred pro-Russian demonstrators in the city of Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine, declared on Monday that they were forming an independent republic and urged President Vladimir V. Putin to send troops to the region as a peacekeeping force, even though there was no imminent threat to peace.

“The actions in Donetsk and two other main cities in eastern Ukraine, which included demands for a referendum on seceding from Ukraine and joining Russia, seemed an effort by the activists to mimic some of the events that preceded Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea. However, there were no immediate indications that the Kremlin was receptive to the pleas.”

MISSING JET: The latest, per the Associated Press, “Did the missing Malaysian jet plunge into the ocean at a steep angle, leaving virtually no debris on the surface? Did it come in flat, clip a wave and cartwheel into pieces? Or did it break up in midair, sending chunks tumbling down over a wide swath of water?

“Exactly how the plane hit the water makes a big difference to the teams undertaking the painstaking search for the wreckage. Investigators have frustratingly little hard data to work out how Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 came down in the Indian Ocean on March 8 with 239 people on board.”

BRIDGEGATE: Did someone sing?, per the Newark Star-Ledger, “David Wildstein, the former Port Authority official at the center of the George Washington Bridge lane-closings scandal, spent several days meeting with federal prosecutors in Newark last week, according to a report posted online by a Washington-based publication that says it covers “insider news” about the U.S. Department of Justice.

“The publication, called “Main Justice,” is also reporting that Charlie McKenna, former chief legal counsel to Gov. Chris Christie, met secretly in mid-January with investigators in the office of New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman.”

L.A. SHOOTOUT: Just the facts, per the Los Angeles Times, “Daphne Brogdon, a member of the Olympic Park Neighborhood Council, was at the group's monthly meeting at the Los Angeles Police Department's West Bureau community room on Monday night when the gunfire broke out. "I heard shots," she said in an interview. "They were unmistakable."

“The gunfire broke out about 8:30 p.m. after a gunman walked into the Mid-City building and opened fire. An officer was shot at seven and times and was wounded, police said. The wounded officer, along with another officer, returned fire and struck the gunman. He was in critical condition late Monday.”

POLITICO PLAY: “Republicans say the Democrats’ “war on women” line is fake. But their fear of it is real. More than a dozen female Republican lawmakers gathered last week with GOP operatives to hold a broad discussion on conservative ideas to empower female voters.

“The party launched a program earlier this year to place more women in Republican campaigns. And the three big national party committees have teamed up to respond to Democratic attacks. They even showcased women who work for the party at the top of their latest talking points.”

UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS: Extended, per The Hill, “The Senate approved a five-month extension of federal unemployment benefits on Monday in a 59-38 vote that saw six Republicans break ranks and vote in favor of the legislation. The bill now goes to the House, where Senior House Republicans have felt little pressure to act on jobless benefits. Although they won’t say so directly, they are likely to ignore the Senate bill.

“Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has suggested the retroactive plan would be difficult to implement, and he said its lack of job-creation measures means it has fallen short of the requirements he set in December for considering an extension of long-term unemployment insurance. Senate Democrats are hoping their passage of the bill will raise the pressure on Boehner.”

D.C. COZINESS: A bit too cozy?, per City Paper, “In other towns, connections to city hall movers and shakers might speak to good citizenship. The District isn't that kind of place. Attorneys for frequent District political donor and Chinatown restaurateur Tony Cheng and his son, who have been charged with bribery, want to find out whether knowledge of an acquaintance between their clients and local politicians would prejudice potential jurors.

“In documents filed in court last month, Cheng's son's lawyer proposes asking members of the jury if knowing that Cheng is "acquainted" with Mayor Vince Gray and councilmembers would affect their verdict. Cheng's lawyers want to ask jurors whether media coverage of previous District corruption investigations has affected how they would judge Cheng.”

TUSSLE: In Annapolis, per Gazette.Net, “Two men were arrested by Maryland Capitol Police Monday evening following an altercation on the fourth floor of the House of Delegates Office Building in Annapolis. No elected officials were involved, according to a written statement by Chief Michael Wilson after he emerged from House Speaker Michael E. Busch’s legislative office.”

YOU’RE IN: Again, per the Frederick News-Post, “Three Middletown commissioners — Larry Bussard, Jennifer Falcinelli and Richard Dietrick — were re-elected Monday in an uncontested race. Only 103 ballots were cast from Middletown’s pool of 3,100 registered voters. Bussard received 72 votes; Dietrick got 58, and Falcinelli led with 74.”

METRO DEATH: Of odd circumstances, per ARLnow, “A man was struck and killed by a Metro train between the Arlington Cemetery and Pentagon stations Monday night. The incident happened just past 8. According to Metro, the man was “apparently trespassing” on the tracks when he was struck by an inbound train approaching Arlington Cemetery.”

DISTRICT WEED: Taking it to the next level, per DCist, “Although Mayor Vince Gray recently signed a bill to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana, D.C.'s medical marijuana laws are still too restrictive, many advocates think.

“But that could change. . . Councilmembers Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7) and David Grosso (I-At Large)—along with co-introducers Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), David Catania (I-At Large), Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5), Anita Bonds (D-At Large), and Marion Barry (D-Ward 8)—will introduce an amendment to D.C.'s medical marijuana law that would scrub the list of qualifying conditions to receive a medical marijuana prescription and instead leave it in the hands of a patient's physician.”

TRENDING ON ABC7 FACEBOOK: “Public hearings on the Fairfax County school budget begin today. They’re expected to bring at least two days worth of impassioned testimony over teacher pay, class size, layoffs and much more.

NEWSTALK: Among today’s topics (10 a.m., NewsChannel 8) -- A recap of this year’s Maryland General Assembly session. Joining us will be Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery), Del. Jolene Ivey (D-Prince George’s) and Sen. David Brinkley (R-Frederick).

--Skip Wood