DAYBREAK DAILY: Virginia gun sales soar on Black Friday

ABC7 WEATHER: Mostly cloudy with highs in the mid 50s.

‘GOOD MORNING WASHINGTON’: Among the reports – Work continues on Shirlington water main break; Shooting in NE, with suspect dead and police officer injured; Two Walmarts set to open in D.C.; much more, beginning at 4:30 a.m. M-F.

GUNS, GUNS, GUNS: And more guns, per the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “Virginia gun sales set a new high for Black Friday as the number of firearms sold statewide continues to soar and is just days away from setting an annual record. Gun transactions in Virginia totaled 3,902 on Black Friday, a 1.2 percent increase over the previous record of 3,856 transactions on the same day in 2012, according to the latest Virginia State Police figures of mandatory criminal-background checks of gun buyers.

“The Black Friday numbers helped boost Virginia’s overall gun transactions to 429,154 through the end of November, or 17.5 percent more than during the same period last year, Virginia Firearms Transaction Center data show. With an additional 2,539 transactions processed during the first two days of December, Virginia will easily surpass last year’s record of 432,387 transactions. As of Monday, the state had processed 431,693 transactions, just 694 shy of the record.”

MARYLAND AND ITS HEALTH EXCHANGE: Seeing daylight, per the Baltimore Sun, “Despite continuing technical glitches, the director of Maryland's troubled health exchange said Tuesday that she believes the state can reach its goal of enrolling roughly a fifth of its uninsured residents by the end of March. Rebecca Pearce, executive director of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, acknowledged that only about 3,000 people have signed up for private health plans so far. But, she said, the state still projects it can get about 147,000 more enrolled by March 31, the date when uninsured Americans face a tax penalty.

“. . . Gov. Martin O'Malley promised last week that the major bugs in the online insurance exchange would be fixed by mid-December. On Tuesday some members of the House Health and Government Operations Committee in Annapolis questioned whether the state could make up the lost ground.”

MIZEUR MAKES MONEY MOVE: Of matching funds, per the Washington Post, “Maryland Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Heather R. Mizeur said Tuesday that she will participate in the state’s public-financing system next year, becoming the first candidate in 20 years to agree to limit overall spending in exchange for matching funds. Mizeur, a Montgomery County delegate who faces two better-known opponents in June’s primary, said her decision was consistent with a desire to run a grass-roots campaign at a time when corporate money is playing an outsize role at all levels of politics.

“. . . But some people suggested that Mizeur was motivated by being greatly outpaced in fundraising by Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown and Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, who have greater name recognition. Under Maryland’s public-financing system, Mizeur could qualify for more than $1 million in state funds next year if she agrees not to spend more than roughly $2.5 million on her primary campaign.”

DEADLY DERAILMENT: The latest, per the New York Times, “The engineer who operated the Metro-North Railroad train that derailed over the weekend, killing four people and injuring more than 70, told the authorities on Tuesday that he had become dazed before the accident, suffering what his lawyer referred to as “highway hypnosis.” The account was delivered as federal investigators said they had found no apparent problems with the train’s brakes or other equipment.

“The engineer, William Rockefeller, met with investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and detectives from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and New York City police for more than three hours on Tuesday — at one point tearing up, according to his lawyer, Jeffrey P. Chartier. Mr. Chartier said Mr. Rockefeller was cooperating fully and was “extremely remorseful.”

MOTOWN OFFICIALLY BANKRUPT: And that’s a good thing – for some, per the Detroit Free Press, “Detroit officially became the largest municipality in U.S. history to enter Chapter 9 bankruptcy on Tuesday in a ruling that sets the stage for a fierce clash over how to reduce debt and retiree benefits to return the city to financial solvency.

“U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes said Detroit can legally pursue pension cuts — a landmark ruling with implications for financially distressed cities throughout the country. The ruling instantly triggered reaction and appeals from unions and retirees who fear pension cuts and health care insurance reductions.”

NICE: Just the facts, per ABC7-WJLA, “A Metropolitan Police Department officer has been arrested and charged on accusations that he took naked photos of a 15-year-old girl at a D.C. apartment. Officer Marc Washington, a seven-year veteran of the force, was charged with production of child pornography on Monday after a brief investigation. He was taken into custody not long after allegations against him surfaced.”

BUDGET BLUES: Steny makes a stand, per The Hill, “House Democrats of all stripes are lining up against a stopgap spending bill that further entrenches the blunt sequester cuts. GOP leaders could bring a vote as early as next week on a short-term continuing resolution (CR) likely to adopt the $967 billion sequester-level spending cap urged by many Republicans. But the pushback from Democrats this week has been near universal, with liberals and centrists alike vowing to join party leaders in opposition to any such measure.

“I’m not going to support a short-term CR that leads to a $967 billion level,” Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the House minority whip, said Tuesday during a press briefing in the Capitol. “I believe that hurts our national security, it hurts our economy and it undermines our responsibility of running government at a level that is productive for our people.” The opposition raises the chances of a government shutdown taking place in mid-January if a House-Senate budget conference fails to reach a deal on a broader framework to fund the government and scale back the sequester.”

POLITICO PLAY: “For House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra, the new, improved Obamacare website is better than it was — but the law won’t be a success “until every American who has a chance to qualify for these health insurance policies gets it.” For Jeremy Milarsky, who works for one of the “navigator” groups in Missouri that’s helping people sign up, the website is improved enough to make the job easier, mainly because of a new health plan browser feature that actually works.

“But for health insurers across the country, the new isn’t even close to a success — and won’t be until the Obama administration finishes the critical parts that aren’t even built yet. The fixes to the federal Obamacare enrollment website are holding up well enough — so far — that they mark a small but crucially important milestone in the rollout of President Barack Obama’s signature health care law. For the first time since October, Democrats are ready to go on the offensive again, and advocates of the law are ready to start inviting people back. And Republicans are saying, hey, it was never all about the website anyway.”

VOTING MACHINES: Of a twist, per the Roanoke Times, “The Roanoke Voter Registration Office is putting on a special election Jan. 7 but doesn’t have any machines to record the vote — at least at the moment. Thanks to the impending recount in the squeaker of an election for Virginia attorney general, every voting machine in the state used in the Nov. 5 election is in lockdown mode to protect the results. Republican Mark Obenshain requested the recount after the state board of elections certified a 165-vote victory for Democrat Mark Herring.

“That means the city has no machines to use for the Jan. 7 special election to find a successor for Onzlee Ware, who has resigned as the 11th District House of Delegates representative, said Melvin Williams, secretary of the city electoral board. . . As a result, Roanoke Registrar Andrew Cochran is in search of 95 voting machines to use for a day.”

MUM MAYOR: When he wants to be, per City Paper, “A day after announcing plans to run for re-election, a testy Mayor Vince Gray repeatedly refused to answer any questions about his scandal-plagued 2010 campaign at a press briefing Tuesday, or even to point to specific policy accomplishments of his administration. "I've said what I've said," Gray responded curtly to a question about his 2010 election campaign, which is the subject on an ongoing federal investigation. "I've said it repeatedly. I want to talk about the future."

“Gray, speaking at the nearly complete CityMarket at O development in Shaw to highlight the successes of the first year of the five-year economic development strategy he launched across the street in November 2012, deflected question after question about the 2010 campaign and the investigation, arguing that voters would judge him on his record. "Look at the job creation," he said. "Look at the education. Look at the economic development."

RAISE TAXES: Of a proposal, per the Frederick News-Post, “Maryland Delegate Galen Clagett says Frederick County's leaders should consider raising local income taxes to help pay for school construction and other capital projects. Clagett floated the idea Tuesday afternoon to a work group tasked with discussing county growth planning strategies. The group is looking at how the county should pay for infrastructure expansion to serve the growing population of students, drivers and library patrons.

“Frederick County's current income tax rate sits at 2.96 percent, but state law permits local governments to charge up to 3.2 percent, Clagett noted. If Frederick County officials decided to raise the tax, they could dedicate the increase to capital improvements, said Clagett, D-District 3A.”

THE DEER HUNTER: Or something like that, per Gazette.Net, “A Montgomery County lawmaker will try again to give archery hunters more room to help cull the county’s growing deer population. Del. Eric Luedtke again has proposed a local bill to shrink the safety zone around Montgomery County buildings from 150 yards to 50 yards for bow hunters. Current state law prohibits shooting any firearm or deadly weapon, like a bow, within 150 yards of an occupied home, church or other building or camp. Around schools, the safety zone is 300 yards.

“Under Luedtke’s proposal, Montgomery County would be lumped with Carroll and Frederick counties, which have a 50-yard safety zone. With the exception of Harford County, which has a 100-yard buffer, the rest of the state must follow a 150-yard safety zone.”

OBX: And a bridge to nowhere, per the Virginian-Pilot, “Concerned about the safety of the span's supports, transportation officials on Tuesday indefinitely closed the 50-year-old Herbert C. Bonner Bridge, which links N.C. 12 across the Oregon Inlet to this island.

“After it was announced over the Thanksgiving weekend that the span was safe for traffic, sonar scanning revealed too much underwater scouring of the sand around the bridge's supports, according to the North Carolina Department of Transportation. Strong currents through Oregon Inlet tend to sweep the sand from the base of bridge supports.”

SPORTS, BRIEFLY: Caps lose 4-1 against Carolina.

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--Skip Wood