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Morning Read: McDonnell's Latest Budget Crunch

Seeks to roll back unfunded state mandates

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Morning Read: McDonnell's Budget Crunch

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Governor Bob McDonnell proposed Monday an end to at least 20 unfunded state mandates on city and county governments intended to help the cash-strapped communities that pay for the often-costly state regulations.

Among the proposals, McDonnell and his appointed task force call for the Department of Education to reduce reporting requirements for schools by 15 percent and recommend an increase to the amount of time that government officials have to respond to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

The change to the FOIA would likely pose obstacles to journalists and other citizens who rely on public records to hold the government accountable.

It is unclear the total savings the proposals would yield, but The Washington Examiner reports that Fairfax County schools, for example, “would save $4 million a year if the state no longer required elementary school students to take online standardized writing tests, said Supervisor Pat Herrity, who heads the governor's task force.”

The Associated Press said that advocates for Virginia cities and counties lauded the governor’s efforts to cut expenses “pushed onto them without reimbursement for years.”

The governor also recommended putting $25 million of $120 million in cuts back into aid to localities over 2 years.

But, the AP reports that McDonnell's own budget proposal would "require cities and counties together to pay an additional $1 billion in the next two years into the underfunded public employee pension system as the employer's share for school teacher retirement plans."

Click here to read the governor’s press release announcing the proposals.

- Occupy D.C. hopes to rally through the cold today—the opening day of the 2012 congressional session—with an event on Capital Hill that its organizers say will draw thousands of people.

Dubbed Occupy Congress, the rally is an attempt to jump start the Occupy Movement, which has lost much of its momentum and members during the holidays and cold weather, according to the Washington Times.

Specifically, the event organizers wrote on the Occupy DC website: “Because Congress has shown itself to be increasingly out of touch with the American people, Occupy DC, in unity with occupiers from around the country and the world, will peacefully engage with and protest our supposedly representative government.”

The event organizers have permits to rally from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m, but many believe the rally could be risky because of mounting pressure to evict the protesters from McPherson Square.

- Pro-gun advocates rallied in Richmond Monday, pushing for a package of bills that would ease restrictions on carrying concealed weapons and allow guns on state college campuses.

Organized by the Virginia Citizens Defense League, the Washington Post reports that approximately 200 people in attendance wore stickers saying “Guns Save Lives” and some openly carried handguns or rifles.

On the other side, gun-control proponents held their own rally lobbying to block any attempts to allow guns on campuses.

Led by Virginia Tech shooting survivor Colin Goddard and his father, the protesters held a candlelight vigil for victims of Virginia Tech.

- Virginia Del. Bob Marshall was also at the pro-gun rally, and officially announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate Monday. Click here to see a video of why the conservative delegate says he decided to run.

-Maryland House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) announced Monday that he would assign this year’s same-sex marriage legislation to two committees instead of one.

The Washington Post reports that the move is a sign of the “tough road” ahead for the legislation, but a procedural change that could increase its likelihood of passage.

“Busch said the decision would allow more delegates to closely examine the controversial measure, which died unexpectedly on the House floor last year after narrowly passing the Senate,” the Post wrote.

Critics of the bill say that Busch’s move suggests that there are simply not enough votes to get the bill passed.

-Governor Martin O’Malley - the chair of the Democratic Governors Association - criticized Mitt Romney in South Carolina Monday,  saying the Republican nominee frontrunner can no longer claim to be a moderate, according to a Talking Points Memo article.

“I think there was some thought that he’d be a formidable candidate because of his moderate positions,” O’Malley said to TPM. “But in the course of this primary, he seems to have jettisoned those positions and he seems to have taken on in some cases like immigration a position that’s to the right of most of his field including Newt Gingrich.”
 

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