House Appropriations Committee chairman, Del. Lacey Putney, I-Bedford, right, addresses the House during the session at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Thursday, March 1, 2012. Putney asked for unanimous consent to introduce a budget bill. The House acceded to the request. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
More than 30 people were arrested over the weekend in Richmond during a rally protesting anti-abortion bills passed through the Virginia legislature this year.
Protesters say that the passed bills—such as one that defines a fertilized egg as a person, another that prohibits state-funded abortions to poor women with severely deformed fetuses and a high-profile bill that requires women to get an ultrasound prior to an abortion— take away Virginia women’s rights.
Activist group Speak Loud with Silence organized the event that started at Bell Tower in Capitol Square and ended with a rally outside the Capitol building.
The RTD reports that 17 women and 14 men were arrested on Saturday on charges of trespassing and unlawful assembly.
The arrested protesters will be arraigned this morning and, according to the RTD, the protesters are saying that police mistreated them after they were arrested by leaving them on a bus for more than six hours handcuffed without food or water while they waited to be processed.
"I don't know if that's normal — I'm not asking for special treatment," said Shelley Abrams, who operates an abortion clinic in Richmond. "I can't imagine it is normal…I could see how other people would feel mistreated in that situation."
On Sunday, a Capitol Police sergeant who declined to provide his name said the arrests were handled according to procedure and those arrested were processed as soon as possible by a city magistrate.
According to The Post, the demonstrators had a permit to rally at the Bell Tower, but police said rallies are not allowed in other locations in Capitol Square, including the steps.
* The Virginia General Assembly has less than a week before the close of the legislative session, which means it has less than one week to pass an $85 billion budget.
The Senate’s 20 Democrats in the evenly split Senate are sticking together to prevent the budget from passing, hoping to use their votes in exchange for more equal representation in Senate committees.
But as The Washington Times reports, the legislators on both sides are “digging their heels, apparently hoping the other side will blink first.”
Via Washington Times
“There’s a whole lot that has to be done before we reach an agreement,” said Senate Democratic Leader Richard L. Saslaw, Fairfax Democrat. “I think they have to realize that we’re not pulling a publicity stunt.”
“They have decided to run the government without us,” said Democratic Caucus Chairman A. Donald McEachin, Henrico Democrat. “Look at the mess they have made,”
Governor McDonnell says the Republicans have addressed Democrat’s budget-related concerns, and other fights should not be linked to the budget. If the Senate fails to pass a budget it could lead to a government shutdown.
“That’s not part of the discussion on the budget,” he said. “The legislature’s already spoken on that. “If people want a different view, then they can work hard and elect a new lieutenant governor. Lieutenant governors break ties.”
Jeff Schapiro wrote in a column for The Richmond Times Dispatch:
This go-around, billions don't seem as important as who's boss.
Democrats were the first to dig in, wielding what little leverage they have in the evenly divided state Senate to force Republicans to surrender power, the disputed source of which is the tiebreaking vote of Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling. It is the key to the GOP's working control of the Senate and complete dominance of state government.
Democrats are using the threat of a budget-less Virginia in a bid to exact changes in committees and chairmanships. This includes co-chairs — one from each party — running the budget-writing Finance Committee. Democrats say if Republicans agree to operational parity, they'll consent to a budget — maybe.
The real target of this standoff, as in 2001, 2004 and 2006, is the governor.
Democrats are squeezing Bob McDonnell to practice the bipartisanship he preaches by urging concessions from Senate Republicans.
* Law enforcement Friday raided the house of Jeff Thompson, a big D.C. political donor.
It is unclear why the house was raided but it seems the IRS was involved and Thompson’s longtime spokeswoman Jeanne Harris was also raided.
Loose Lips posted this statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office:
Law enforcement activities were conducted today as part of an ongoing investigation.
We can confirm that there were no arrests today and that no charges have been filed as of this time. Due to the ongoing nature of our inquiry, we are unable to comment any further about today's developments.
The Post reports that the raid could be connected to the ongoing investigation of Mayor Vince Gray's 2010 campaign.
Via the Post,
According to one person with knowledge of the Gray campaign, the mayor was reluctant in 2010 to use Thompson to help bankroll his campaign. But Gray softened after a meeting that was brokered by Reuben O. Charles II, who had a key role in Gray’s fundraising."
Thompson is an accountant who owns a managed care organization that handles one of the District's largest contracts.
* D.C. Council member Marion Barry was elected Saturday as an Obama delegate to the Democratic National Convention, according to the Post.
Councilmember Jack Evans also won a spot.
* A budget showdown is expected in Annapolis this week as legislators floated a number of proposals Friday to raise income taxes to plug a $1 billion shortfall.
According to The Sun, the Senate is considering a measure that would raise income taxes for almost every Marylander by a quarter of a percent while the House is considering a plan that would just impact the top 7 to 10 percent of earners with a steep increase.
Gov. O’Malley’s original proposal calls for an increase to taxes paid by the top 20 percent of wage earners by reducing their exemptions and deductions.