A quarter of the way through the General Assembly, the Virginia GOP has dominated the legislative agenda, pushing through a number of controversial bills about redistricting, abortion and gun rights that the Democrats have been helpless in defeating.
According to The Washington Times, the Republicans’ force was on full display last week when a bill on voter identification strongly opposed by Democrats easily passed through the House Privileges and Elections Committee.
The bill, introduced by Del. Dave Albo, would only provisionally count the ballot of voters who cannot produce identification at the polls, as oppose to the current rule where voters can sign a sworn statement ensuring they are who they say they are.
“I’m trying to understand what the controversy of the bill is,” Albo told The Washington Times. “If three people come and say they’re Dave Albo, all this bill says is we’re going to take two Dave Albos, we’re going to set ‘em aside and look at ‘em, and find out whether or not they’re legit. And if they are legit, they get counted, and if they’re not legit, they don’t get counted.”
But Blue Virginia blog said the bill is “intended to suppress voter turnout in the guise of protecting against imaginary voter fraud."
The GOP has a super majority in the Virginia House and control of every key committee in the Senate.
* Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley said Sunday that he is committed to introducing a transportation bill during this session, even if raising additional revenue to pay for it is unpopular, The Washington Post reports.
Weeks ago, O’Malley suggested the idea of raising the gas tax to pay for additional transportation projects, but the legislation was not among the package of bills he introduced this week.
O’Malley indicated to The Washington Post that he would outline his transportation plans in his State of the State address this week.
A Washington Post poll published Sunday surveying Maryland residents on their thoughts on O’Malley and his agenda showed that more than 70 percent of people are opposed to an increase of 10 cents per gallon of gas or higher.
* O’Malley seemed to be on damage control this weekend over his wife’s now controversial comment calling lawmakers in Maryland who were against the legalization of same-sex marriage "cowards."
At the closing brunch of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force 2012 Creating Change conference, O’Malley made an oblique reference to his wife’s remarks, Metro Weekly reports.
“When we use words of hurt and fear instead of love, understanding and compassion… when this occasionally happens, we must have the humility to apologize. We must choose words and laws of understanding, compassion and justice."
According to The Washington Post, O’Malley later confirmed that he was indeed referring to his wife’s blunder.
“I love my wife very, very much, and for the last 20 years, she has done the very difficult job of balancing a host of responsibilities and done it very, very well,” O’Malley said.
* The Baltimore Sun editorial board lauded City School Chief Andres Alonso’s proposal to borrow $1.2 billion to overhaul and renovate the city’s dilapidated school buildings.
"The proposal to rapidly overhaul Baltimore's aging school facilities that district CEO Andrés Alonso presented to a state Senate committee last week represents one of the most important and innovative ideas the city has offered in recent years to break out of its cycle of poverty and disinvestment. Baltimore cannot flourish without high-quality public schools, and although students have made impressive gains in recent years, the city will not be able to attract and retain families if children are trying to learn in dilapidated facilities.”
* The planned Walmart at 801 New Jersey Ave. will begin construction by spring, DC Mud reports.
Walmart plans to open four D.C. stores by 2013. Critics fear the retail giant will hurt local businesses. In response, Walmart launched a website to convince residents that Walmart would be a positive presence in the community.