Unemployment rates improved in D.C., Maryland and Virginia in January, according to a Labor Department report released Tuesday.
Virginia’s rate dropped the most, from 6.1 percent in December 2011 to 5.8 percent in January 2012—making it the state’s lowest unemployment rate in three years. Maryland’s fell 0.1 percent to 6.5 percent, and the District of Columbia's dropped 0.2 percent from 10.1 percent to 9.9 percent.
The results in these states and D.C. mirror a nationwide trend of job growth. Forty-five states and the District recorded decreased unemployment rates while four states had no change. New York is the only state where the unemployment rate increased.
Comparing January 2012 with January 2011, 48 states and the District registered unemployment decreases while New York and Illinois had no change. The national jobless rate decreased 0.8 percent in January 2012 from a year earlier and currently stands at 8.3 percent.
Looking at Virginia, Maryland and D.C, all three showed modest but steady gains in construction jobs. Virginia saw an increase of about 4,000 construction jobs from December 2011 to January 2012, while Maryland saw an increase of about 3,000.
Both Maryland and Virginia reported increases in professional and business services job, but D.C had a decrease in that area over the month.
* News4’s Tom Sherwood reports that federal prosecutors are issuing new subpoenas this week involving campaign and contributions connected to big D.C. political backer Jeff Thompson, whose home and offices were raided two weeks ago by the FBI.
Sources say the subpoenas are going to any political campaigns since 2003 that may have done business with Thompson or accepted contributions from him or his associates.
* Looks like there’s a chance that Maryland could join its neighbor Virginia in the special legislative session department.
The Baltimore Sun reported that Senate Thomas V. Mike Miller, a proponent of pumping money into transportation projects, said it is unlikely that the General Assembly will pass Gov. Martin O'Malley's plan to increase gasoline taxes this spring and suggested trying again at a special session later this year.
Miller noted that because of high gas prices an increased gas tax is unpopular right now. He said while it will not be passed this session, it could be passed in a special session if prices have settled back to around $3, according to The Sun.
The Senate will begin debating the budget Wednesday, the same day O’Malley is slated to testify before committees about his proposed gas tax.
Virginia failed to pass a budget before its legislative session adjourned last Saturday. It will now have to meet during a special session before July to debate and pass the two-year budget.
* Virginia Senate hopeful and former state Gov. Tim Kaine sent a letter to his likely opponent, former Republican Gov. George Allen, regarding Monday's announcement of a super PAC on Allen's behalf.
In his letter, Kaine said the super PAC goes against what they have both publicly acknowledged to be an important aspect of Virginia's election approach--full transparency of donations.
Since you are unwilling to agree to exclude Super PACs entirely (as candidates in other states have done), how about basing this campaign on the Virginia principle you praised a few months ago? Let's adopt a simple rule: No Secret Money. Let's commit that any group running ads or conducting electoral activity for either of us should have to disclose their donors. Virginia voters are entitled to know who is funding this campaign. Contributions directly to either of us are already disclosed. But, the third parties filling the airways get to hide behind a cloak of secrecy.
If you accept the No Secret Money challenge, in accord with your earlier statements, we can work out basic rules for accomplishing it. Virginians will then be assured of a transparent campaign instead of one dominated by secret special interests who are afraid to face public scrutiny. What do you think?
Allen responded to Kaine's note later this afternoon and said that the Democrat's criticism was hypocritical due to what Allen called a large amount of union donations that fund Kaine's campaign:
It's difficult for voters to take talk of transparency seriously when it comes from a campaign that is substantially funded by big union bosses and their organizations. In fact, most will see it as an unfortunate gimmick, typical of the partisan gamesmanship playing out in Washington today. Much of the union money flowing into your campaign will come from the hard-earned wages of workers who still have absolutely no choice in determining whether to donate to your campaign. They are forced to pay union dues – and thereby forced to support campaigns like yours – just to hold onto their job.That’s not befitting of someone who hopes to represent all of Virginia, which as you know is a Right-to-Work state. If you truly wanted to base this campaign on Virginia principles you could start by disavowing this compulsory union donation system that extracts money from the pockets of working men and women across America. This will perhaps give you more credibility when speaking about transparency in donations.
The Kaine campaign denies that union donations make up a large portion of its funding.
* Opponents of Virginia’s ultrasound legislation are leaving rather explicit comments on the Facebook page of state Senator Ryan McDougle, the Republican Caucus Chairman who supported the legislation.
The legislation received heavy backlash nationwide for its initial call to require all women to get an invasive, transvaginal ultrasound before getting an abortion. The bill ultimately passed but instead of requiring women to get a transvaginal ultrasound, it requires women to receive a normal abdominal ultrasound.
Today, some women writing on the senator’s Facebook wall sarcastically thanked him for taking such an interest in their bodies and provided him with detailed descriptions of their menstrual cycles and other bodily functions.
(There seems to be two Facebook pages under Sen. McDougle’s name, but he does frequently link to this one on his Twitter feed.)