DAYBREAK DAILY: Va. taxpayers still on the hook for McDonnell's legal tab

ABC7 WEATHER: Partly sunny with highs in the upper teens to low 20s and gusting winds.

‘GOOD MORNING WASHINGTON’: Among the reports – Comprehensive coverage of the icy conditions and bitter cold; much more, beginning at 4:30 a.m. M-F.

SCHOOL CLOSINGS: Here’s the list --

NO END IN SIGHT: Of Gov. McDonnell and his legal tab, per the Virginian-Pilot, “There's a chance the meter on taxpayer-funded legal fees from Gov. Bob McDonnell's gift scandal will keep running after he leaves office next week. Through November, Virginia had been billed roughly $784,900 by lawyers from different firms under open-ended contracts that outgoing Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli authorized after withdrawing as counsel from related cases because of his own conflicts in the matter. And in the waning days of McDonnell's tenure, it's unclear when those deals expire because the contracts binding them stipulate they "will continue" through an undefined completion point.

“As such, there is no official "end date," Cuccinelli spokesman Brian Gottstein said in an email this week. The appointments, he said, cease "when the case is resolved regarding the governor in his official capacity." That could mean an escalating public tab into this year, to say nothing of whatever invoices Virginia owes for unbilled services rendered in 2013.”

COLLEGE PARK GOES RITZY: Or something like that, per the Baltimore Sun, “A gleaming new apartment building with restaurants and bars on the ground floor has replaced an old pizza place and tire shop. A new Whole Foods will sprout up just down the road. A four-star hotel and bike lanes are planned.

“The changes are part of a longer-term effort to transform U.S. 1 — the University of Maryland, College Park's main drag — from a jumbled mix of strip malls and fast-food joints. After a decade of slow progress, the building spree jump-starts a plan to remake the city of College Park into a "real" college town. University officials say that as the institution has leaped ahead in rankings and prestige, College Park has lagged, hurting recruitment of faculty and students. They want College Park, where only about 4 percent of faculty and staff live, to be more appealing to them as well as to graduate and undergraduate students.”

GUNS AND MORE GUNS: Shocker, per the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “As expected, Virginia gun sales set a new high in 2013 with nearly 480,000 transactions statewide, breaking the record set a year earlier. Gun transactions in Virginia totaled 479,253 for the year, a 10.8 percent increase over the previous record of 432,387 transactions in 2012, according to Virginia State Police figures of mandatory criminal-background checks of gun buyers released Thursday.

“State police said 2013 represents the highest yearly volume of transactions since the inception of Virginia’s background check program, which began Nov. 1, 1989. Gun sales were brisk in the first four months of 2013, with month-over-month increases of 115.8 percent, 38.5 percent, 41 percent and 28.4 percent for January, February, March and April, respectively, police said.”

NO CODE IS SAFE: At least that’s the plan, per the Washington Post, “In room-size metal boxes ¬secure against electromagnetic leaks, the National Security Agency is racing to build a computer that could break nearly every kind of encryption used to protect banking, medical, business and government records around the world.

“According to documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the effort to build “a cryptologically useful quantum computer” — a machine exponentially faster than classical computers — is part of a $79.7 million research program titled “Penetrating Hard Targets.” Much of the work is hosted under classified contracts at a laboratory in College Park, Md.”

PEACE TALKS: Of positioning, per the New York Times, “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel delivered a harsh assessment of his Palestinian counterpart and implicitly the prospect of a Middle East peace agreement as Secretary of State John Kerry arrived here on Thursday to intensify his push for a “framework” accord that would define the principles of a comprehensive treaty.

“There’s growing doubt in Israel that the Palestinians are committed to peace,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “In the six months since the start of peace negotiations, the Palestinian Authority continues its unabated incitement against the State of Israel.” Mr. Netanyahu has made similar comments in recent days, but it was striking that he made them with Mr. Kerry at his side and at a time when the secretary of state was stepping up his diplomatic efforts. The prime minister’s combative comments came as each side appeared to be maneuvering and potentially laying the foundation to avoid blame should the talks fail.”

CONVENIENT TRUTH: It is what it is, per The Hill, “Climate change and energy will be a major policy battleground in the 2014 midterms, advocates on both sides of the issue promise. Republicans like Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) plan to go on the attack against President Obama’s climate action plan, which they have dubbed a “war on coal.”

“They’re backed by conservative groups like the American Energy Alliance, which is already airing campaign ads attacking Democrats such as Rep. Nick Rahall (W.Va.) for supporting a carbon tax. Green activists led by Tom Steyer plan to return fire. The billionaire former hedge fund manager, who has poured his money into environmental causes, said Thursday that his New Year’s resolution is to make climate change a voter concern in 2014.”

POLITICO PLAY: “For a law that’s inspired a lot of noise, the start of Obamacare coverage has been quiet. The health care industry is still trying to diagnose the depth of any implementation issues with the president’s health care program since coverage took effect Jan. 1. Providers, insurers and patient advocates say it’s too early to know whether people are rushing to get care or running into problems when they try to use their new insurance for the first time.”

LINE STARTS HERE: For D.C. mayor, per City Paper, “All seven of the major mayoral candidates turned in at least double the amount of signatures due today to make April's primary ballot, according to their campaigns. It's hard to independently quantify how many signatures the campaigns turned in, since the campaigns only turn in the stacks of stacks of petitions pages. Without his own count, then, LL's relying on estimates from the campaigns themselves.”

QUALITY OF LIVING: A pro-active stance, per the Frederick News-Post, “Ways to prevent suicide, the numbers of homeless children, education levels — even how many teeth people have — all factor into Frederick County's overall health assessment. The assessment drives the county health department and Frederick County Healthcare Coalition as they identify what the community lacks and ways to supply medical treatment and preventive services. The department and coalition have released a draft assessment and will accept comments about it online and in person at scheduled public meetings between now and Jan. 22.”

RAISING THE PAY BAR: In Maryland, per Gazette.Net, “The majority of Montgomery County’s state delegation is expected to back a bill raising the statewide minimum wage to $10.10 per hour by 2016. Sen. Jamie B. Raskin and Del. Anne R. Kaiser (D-Dist. 14) of Burtonsville are scheduled to announce Friday morning the names of those who signed a letter of support for the bill.”

UM, WHAT?: Ultimately, he ran away, per ARLnow, “A locksmith helped an alleged burglar break into an Arlington Heights home early last Friday, according the Arlington County Police Department. The suspect called a locksmith to open the house on the 3300 block of 5th Street S. After the locksmith allowed him to gain entry, the suspect rummaged through drawers to look for working keys and identification, said police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.”

SPORTS, BRIEFLY: Caps lose 4-3 against Carolina.

TRENDING ON ABC7 FACEBOOK: “For the third year in a row, Prince George's County is reporting dramatic drops in violent crime. Police are crediting better community policing as a main reason for the decrease.”

NEWSTALK: Among today’s guests (10 a.m., NewsChannel 8) is Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, who will be asked about the expiration of jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed, and his congressional outlook for 2014.

--Skip Wood