DAYBREAK DAILY: Virginia lawmakers to examine e-cigarette trend

ABC7 WEATHER: Sunny with highs in the mid 40s.

‘GOOD MORNING WASHINGTON’: Among the reports – Post-Christmas holiday rush; much more, beginning at 4:30 a.m. M-F.

E-CIGS: Virginia lawmakers to examine the surge, per the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “2013 might be remembered as the year when electronic cigarettes took off in the heart of tobacco country. At least eight retail stores specializing in selling electronic cigarettes, battery-powered devices or e-cigarettes, opened this year in the Richmond area.

“. . . In Virginia, state lawmakers will tackle some issues surrounding e-cigarettes in the upcoming General Assembly session starting in January. At least two bills would explicitly prohibit sales of e-cigarettes to minors. Lawmakers also may consider whether e-cigarettes should be taxed the same as conventional cigarettes in Virginia. While sales of e-cigarettes to minors are not explicitly prohibited now under Virginia law, local sellers say they abide by laws that prohibit tobacco sales to minors.”

COSTLY COMMUTE: For some, per the Baltimore Sun, “Thousands of Maryland bus and MARC train riders could pay more for their commute starting in January after Congress failed to renew an expiring tax credit that rewards mass transit use. Current federal law allows bus and rail commuters to withhold up to $245 a month in pre-tax income. The cap falls to $130 on Jan. 1 — potentially costing frequent mass transit users hundreds of dollars a year in higher taxes.

“. . . Lawmakers approved a budget agreement this month that did not address the tax break. Because Congress has already left Washington for the year, it won't have another opportunity to do so before the higher cap expires. Both chambers could approve the break when Congress returns the week of Jan. 6. But even if that happens, supporters are concerned it will be hard for companies to quickly readjust the way they administer the program. That could make it difficult for users to capture the full benefit.”

MAKEOVER: For a road, per the Washington Post, “Running for a mile and a half alongside Rock Creek Park, Broad Branch Road is, in many ways, a classic country road in the middle of the city. . . Picturesque as it is, Broad Branch has become a commuter route, carrying thousands of people who use it to bypass Connecticut Avenue and 16th Street in upper Northwest Washington. The signs of age and heavy use are evident. Chunks of the retaining wall that runs along the serpentine creek bed at the park’s edge are falling off. The road — marked with potholes and worn edges — frequently floods. And pedes¬trians and bicyclists complain that there’s no room for them on the stretch of shoulderless road, as it runs from Linnean Avenue to Beach Drive.

“Now the District Department of Transportation is considering an extensive rehabilitation that could include adding a sidewalk and a bike lane. The department is expected to chose between one of four alternatives early next year, the most expensive of which would cost $37.1 million and take three years to complete.”

D.C. DOPE: Because of regulations, few partake, per the Los Angeles Times, “The tidy Takoma Wellness Center, one of the first medical marijuana dispensaries to open in the nation's capital, has a quaint reception area furnished with black leather chairs, plants and artwork. On the front desk are a pile of business cards and a sign-in sheet. In the back, shelves are stocked with the latest marijuana accessories: pipes, cookbooks, even a machine that mixes the drug into butter or oil for cooking.

"All that's missing are more patients. Since opening this summer, the three Washington, D.C.-based marijuana dispensaries have served a total of 111 patients in a district with about 600,000 residents. That's about 100 times fewer patients, on a per capita basis, than states such as California or Oregon, where the drug can also be legally used to alleviate illnesses.”

CLANDESTINE HELP: For Iraq, per the New York Times, “The United States is quietly rushing dozens of Hellfire missiles and low-tech surveillance drones to Iraq to help government forces combat an explosion of violence by a Qaeda-backed insurgency that is gaining territory in both western Iraq and neighboring Syria. The move follows an appeal for help in battling the extremist group by the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, who met with President Obama in Washington last month.

“But some military experts question whether the patchwork response will be sufficient to reverse the sharp downturn in security that already led to the deaths of more than 8,000 Iraqis this year, 952 of them Iraqi security force members, according to the United Nations, the highest level of violence since 2008.”

MEANWHILE: No brotherly love, per The Hill, “Egypt’s military-run government has declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group. The move comes months after the military removed Mohammed Morsi from the presidency. Morsi was the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate in the 2012 election. “The new government's minister of education read a statement announcing the decision, which will give more power to authorities to crack down on the group. "The Cabinet has declared the Muslim Brotherhood group and its organization as a terrorist organization," the statement from Minister of Higher Education Hossam Elssa read, according to a Fox News report.”

POLITICO PLAY: “So January has finally arrived, maybe New Year’s Eve didn’t end so well for you, and you’ve decided to take your brand-new Obamacare coverage out for a test drive. Except - oops - maybe your new health insurer doesn’t have any record of you. Or you didn’t get the coverage you thought you were getting.

“The arrival of Jan. 1 will be a big event for President Barack Obama’s health care law — the day when Americans across the country can use their new health insurance for the first time. It could be a day of badly needed success stories, if people have a smooth time and sing the praises of their new private health insurance or Medicaid coverage.”

COPPER CROP: Of high value, per the Frederick News-Post, “A weighted-down vehicle full of freshly cut copper wires led to three arrests Dec. 18. That same day, in a separate case, police charged a Frederick man with stealing copper from a foreclosed Frederick residence. The latter suspect, Zachary Daniel True, 34, was already facing charges of stealing copper from a city-owned building.

“Lt. Dennis Dudley, commander of the special operations division with the Frederick County Sheriff's Office, said copper thefts have been a major problem ever since the economy declined in the late 2000s. He said the spike was a combination of people needing money and copper being more visibly available due to circumstances like the foreclosed property. Dudley said a down economy also raised the value of copper.”

BACK AT YA: Do unto others, per the Loudoun Times-Mirror, “A Leesburg woman who’s spent decades opening her home to others is seeing her kindness repaid in turn this holiday season. “In Janice’s case, several people enclosed articles written in the Washington Post and told us things she’s done for the community,” said Steve Gotschi, founder and president DryHome Roof & Siding. Gotschi’s company selects one deserving individual every year to be given a free roof, and this time around the candidate chosen was Janice Coe.

“It was a group decision,” he said. “We all decided on her. It was unanimous. Putting a roof over her head is helping more than just her.” Coe’s roof certainly shelters many heads; the Loudoun resident has devoted herself to temporarily taking in the homeless and assisting them in finding the help they need. She recently went so far as to pay for a young woman and her child to stay at a hotel while she worked on their behalf to secure subsidized housing.”

GUN PROPOSAL: Seems modest, but. . .per the Sun Gazette, “He acknowledges chances of passage are slim, but Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th) has introduced a measure that would ban firearms from the floor of the House of Delegates. “I was inspired [to patron the resolution] because of last year’s theatrics involving Del. Joe Morrissey (D-Henrico) displaying an AK-47 on the House floor,” Hope said. “The only thing more outrageous than bringing such a weapon onto the floor was there was no rule prohibiting him or anyone else from doing so.”

“Hope’s measure already has attracted flak from the Virginia Shooting Sports Association, a state affiliate of the National Rifle Association, and seems unlikely to gain much traction in the Republican-dominated House of Delegates.”

MEANWHILE: Guns and schools, per Gazette.Net, “The recent arrest and subsequent court hearing of a private school employee who took a gun to school have county and state officials pondering a change to one of Maryland’s gun laws. They want to change the law to close a loophole that prohibits people from taking guns to public schools, but not private schools.

“In November, police arrested Stephen P. Lafferty, of Frederick, after he took a revolver he used to hunt deer to the school where he worked, Georgetown Preparatory School in North Bethesda. Lafferty, a building maintenance supervisor for the private school, told police he had the gun there because he was going to have some repair work done on it, according to his lawyer, Dino Flores.”

TRENDING ON ABC7 FACEBOOK: “Thanks to some savvy neighbors, one Stafford County family got saved from a burglary-in-progress and a would-be Grinch! A couple was looking out their window when they saw a man climbing into a home across the street. They promptly dialed 911 and warned their neighbor, who was pulling up the driveway, not to go inside. The suspect was found in the basement and is currently in custody.”

NEWSTALK: Among today’s guests (10 a.m., NewsChannel 8) is Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler, who will be asked about consumer issues, the Affordable Care Act and his gubernatorial campaign.

--Skip Wood