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Morning Read: Lawmakers Talk Virginia Budget

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AM Read: Negotiations Over Va. Budget

NBCWashington.com

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State lawmakers from both parties in the House and Senate have started discussion to work out a solution for the state budget.

There is technically no approved budget document for them to negotiate, but they said the goal is to unofficially iron out differences in spending priorities between the two chambers, so that they can come to swift agreement on a formal fiscal blueprint once the partisan battle in the Virginia Senate is resolved, RTD reports.

Two Democrat senators attended the meeting.

Democrats in the evenly split Senate have refused to vote for the budget, hoping instead to use their votes in exchange for restructuring some Senate committees to give them equal power with the Republicans.

The budget has already failed twice and if it is not passed by March 10, Virginia could face a government shutdown.

Democrats cautioned that the meeting does not necessarily mean an eventual end to the impasse.

Gov. McDonnell said in a statement:

"While it is still extremely frustrating that our General Assembly session is drawing to a close without a viable budget bill in conference or passed by the Virginia Senate, I am encouraged today as both the House and Senate have identified qualified individuals to work together to negotiate a compromise that could keep Virginia's government funded and operational past June 30."

* As expected, Mitt Romney easily won Virginia’s two-man primary against Ron Paul with 59 percent of the vote.

Paul snatched three of Virginia’s 46 delegates.

NBC’s Julie Carey wrote that the win revealed some Romney weaknesses in Virginia, a state that will be key in the general election.

Carey wrote that while Romney did well in the big northern Virginia counties, there were a few pockets where Paul clobbered Romney.

Read more here.

NBC’s Tom Sherwood has the latest on the D.C. campaign finance scandal.

Last week, big D.C. political donor Jeffrey Thompson’s house and office were raided, and since then there has been a whirlwind of findings and speculations.

Read more here.

* There may be a partisan standoff in the Virginia Senate preventing the budget from being passed, but that doesn’t meet the elected officials can’t rally under an important cause.

Some members of the Senate tried to introduce a bipartisan legislation that would have given them raises.

It’s been 21 years since state senators, who earn $18,000 annually, have received a raise. Proponents of the raise argued that the low salaries makes it hard for those who are not wealthy or retired to service in office.

But then, according to the Post, when it looked like the legislation was a go, Sen. Jeffrey L. McWaters chimed in:

And then Sen. Jeffrey L. McWaters (R-Virginia Beach) had to go and ruin it all, rising and making an impassioned plea for the obvious: If the Senate, which hasn’t been able to pass a budget, can muster the votes to boost its pay, how’s that going to look? He chastised senators for even taking time to discuss such a thing when the budget remained up in the air.

The raise failed in a 10-29 vote.

* Senate candidate George Allen continues to remain mum as abortion-related controversies take center stage in the Virginia legislature.

An article in Roll Call says Allen, a Republican, has wanted no part in the discussions about abortion and women’s rights.

Via Roll Call:

The Allen campaign has sought to make Kaine’s “unabashed support” of President Barack Obama the election’s No. 1 issue, but keeping the race on message has been made more difficult amid the culture wars in Richmond and Washington, D.C.

“When you’re running for federal office, the one thing you always have to do is tip-toe around the state Legislature because you just never know how much dung they’re going to leave on the field,” one Republican strategist in the state said.

Gov. McDonnell took heat for his position on the abortion ultrasound bill, some even speculating that it could cost him the vice-presidential nomination.

While Allen’s likely opponent, Tim Kaine, has come out against the bill and pushed Allen to reveal his position, the Republican has still said nothing on the legislation.

“I think that they want to talk about these issues so they can avoid having to address any other issues that are being discussed when you’re going out on the trail,” Allen consultant Dan Allen said, citing gas prices, health care and jobs as what Allen hears about most. “I think that for Tim Kaine, as well as a lot of Democrats nationally, those are not issues they want to be addressing right now. I think they’re trying to hang on to and distract into other issues as much as they say that they’re not.”

Roll Call pointed out that "Kaine has been touring the state during the past couple of weeks to discuss job creation with local businesses, business groups and local chambers of commerce, including two economic roundtables in Southside on Friday and Saturday. But his campaign clearly views women’s rights as an uncomfortable issue for Allen."

* For the first time in his governorship, Gov. Martin O’Malley is taking steps to grant clemency to two Maryland inmates serving life sentences.

The Baltimore Sun reports that aides said public notices—which are intended to solicit feedback—will be posted Wednesday saying that the two cases are under consideration.

The two inmates under consideration are Mark Farley Grant and Tamara Settles.

Grant was sentenced to life in prison in 1984 when he was just 14 after being charged with participating in a botched street robbery in West Baltimore that killed Michael Gough.

Advocates for Grant, according to the Sun, show that he was not the triggerman and the parole commission recommended he be released last year.

Tamara Settles, 53, was convicted for her role in a killing in Prince George's County.

Maryland is one of three states where the governor has power to reject recommendations from parole commissions. The Sun reported that until last year, O’Malley had not taken action on 50 cases that made it to his desk, prompting frustrated legislators to push bills that would limit his role in some cases.
 

Related Topics Morning Read, primaries, budget
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