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Morning Read: Government Shutdown Looms If Dems Do Not Pass VA Budget

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AM Read: Va. Govt. Shutdown?

Virginia Republicans have a message for Democrats: Pass the budget or else…

Sen. Emmett W. Hanger Jr., R-Augusta, threatened to remove a provision in the budget that restored $42 million to help Northern Virginia localities compete for teachers in an area with a higher cost of living than the rest of the state if the Democrats did not pass the budget, according to The Richmond Times Dispatch.

This provision of the budget was not included in Gov. McDonnell’s original proposal, but Hanger said the Republicans put it in to make the budget more appealing to Democrats.

In order to pass the budget, Republicans need just one Democrat vote in the evenly split Senate. But Democrats are teaming up to vote against the budget in an attempt to use their leverage to broker a deal that would exchange their votes for the restructuring of some Senate committees—a move that would give them more power in the Senate.

(Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, who has been a key tiebreaking vote for Republicans for much of the legislative session, cannot vote on the budget.)

The Democrats already voted against the budget once, and on Tuesday a Senate committee passed the House version of the budget.

This new budget will likely have the same fate as the first on the Senate floor.

The Richmond Times Dispatch editorial board weighed in on the partisan feud and warned that if a budget is not passed it could lead to a government shutdown.

The last time a shutdown loomed, at least a question of principle was at stake. The current brinksmanship seems driven solely by power and ego. But as the saying goes, politics ain't beanbag. The Democrats have now turned it into a game of chicken — evidently confident Republicans will be the first to swerve. They might be right. But if they aren't, they had better be prepared to face the public's wrath.

* The DC Fiscal Policy Institute reports that unemployment is still on the rise in the District.

According to the report, D.C. closed 2011 with an average yearly unemployment rate of 10.3 percent, slightly higher than the rate for 2010 and far higher than 2007 before the start of the recession—a sign that economic weakness continues to affect DC residents.

Unemployment in the District is widespread but black residents and high school graduates have taken the hardest hits with these rising unemployment rates.

Read the full report here

* A number of legal scholars and top Maryland leaders are sending a letter and a report to the General Assembly urging them to repeal the state’s death penalty.

According to the Baltimore Sun, the attorneys argue that Maryland's death penalty law is still too arbitrary and costly to be worthwhile. Under the law enacted in 2009, prosecutors can seek death only in cases where there is biological or video evidence tying the defendant to the murder or a videotaped confession.

They also argue that the death penalty is costly to the state because it adds an extra phase to the sentencing trial. According to the Sun, the study found that execution cost almost three times more than a non-death sentence.

The letter come at the fifth day of an Anne Arundel County jury’s death penalty deliberations of Lee Edward “Shy” Stephens—a man who was found guilty of stabbing a correction officer to death in 2006 in a state prison.

If given the death penalty, he will be the first person sentenced under these new 2009 restrictions.

* George Allen warmly welcomed his new opponent in the Virginia Senate race, Hank the Cat from Springfield.

The former governor tweeted this Tuesday with a picture of him and a cat:

Welcome to the race @Hank4Senate, here's a pic of @georgeallenva with our campaign's cat coalition co-chair Cisco. pic.twitter.com/xHGLmLkm

Maryland Financier John Delaney hired a new campaign manager for his run to be the Democrat nominee for a U.S. congressional seat.

Via The Post:

“Our campaign has grown significantly and rapidly across the Sixth District,” Delaney spokesman Will McDonald said in an e-mailed statement. “As a result, we have added Justin Schall to the team as Campaign Manager. Justin is an experienced veteran of numerous campaigns and brings a breadth of experience to the team. Max Cummings remains an important and valuable part of the team, working closely with John to assure a winning campaign.”

* Gov. McDonnell officially signed the bill to repeal Virginia's one-handgun-per-month rule into law.

The restriction was originally enacted in the early 1990s when gun trafficking was seen as a problem along the East Coast.

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