<![CDATA[NBC4 Washington - Politics]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/politics http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/WASH+NBC4+BLUE.png NBC4 Washington http://www.nbcwashington.com en-us Sun, 20 Apr 2014 00:20:50 -0400 Sun, 20 Apr 2014 00:20:50 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[O'Malley Prepping for Possible Presidential Run]]> Fri, 18 Apr 2014 15:26:23 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/219*120/2014-04-18_1525.jpg NBC's Senior Political Editor Mark Murray discusses the ongoing Republican fight against the health care law, and Maryland governor Martin O'Malley's preparation for a possible 2016 presidential run.]]> <![CDATA[D.C. Council Sues Mayor Over Congressional Budget Approval]]> Thu, 17 Apr 2014 19:46:06 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/vincentgrayclose.jpg

The D.C. Council filed a lawsuit Thursday against the Mayor Vincent Gray over the city's authority to spend some of its local tax money without congressional approval.

Council Chairman Phil Mendelson marched to Superior Court Thursday intent on forcing Gray to spend about $6 billion in local tax revenue over the next year without waiting for approval from Congress.

“This is not something frivolous,” Mendelson said. “This is not about us beating our chests. We think we have a very good legal case.”

Mendelson says the D.C. government and voters overwhelming approved a change in the city's charter last year that says local funds -- under so-called budget autonomy -- can be spent each year without waiting for routine Capitol Hill approval.

The council expects its latest budget to pass in late May and wants the court to order Gray to spend the money.

Gray said he supports budget autonomy for the city, but his legal advice says the council is risking violating federal law.

“I think we're all in agreement that we want budget autonomy,” Gray said. “I have questions about the path that the council has taken.”

Attorneys representing the council say this budget stalemate could affect city operations in late May if the court doesn't act.

<![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: 'Security' in the News Again]]> Wed, 16 Apr 2014 09:03:09 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/4fa5cef4b1ced.preview-300.jpg

There’s good news about how the nation is keeping watch over the growing security bureaucracy in this country.

But there’s bad news about what you’re going to have to do to make sure your District of Columbia driver’s license conforms to new federal security requirements. If you ignore those requirements, you could have trouble getting into federal buildings this fall or getting on an airplane in 2016.

First the good news.

The Washington Post won a Pulitzer Prize for public service this week for disclosing secret operations of the National Security Agency.

The Pulitzer board said the Post helped "the public understand how the disclosures fit into the larger framework of national security." The Post shared the award with Britain’s The Guardian.

Here in Washington, Post executive editor Martin Baron was a bit blunter about the Post’s reporting. Being quoted in his own newspaper, Baron said, "We never would have known how far this country had shifted away from the rights of individuals in favor of state power. There would have been no public debate about the proper balance between privacy and national security."

Baron said the journalists’ work was a true public service. “In constructing a surveillance system of breathtaking scope and intrusiveness, our government also sharply eroded individual privacy. All this was done in secret, without public debate, and with clear weaknesses in oversight.”

The Pulitzer-winning report, based in part on documents leaked by former contractor Edward Snowden, follows a 2010 special series by The Post on the huge security bureaucracy that has emerged since the terrorist attacks of September 2001.

That series, Top Secret America, compiled hundreds of thousands of documents and identified 45 government agencies with 1,271 “sub-units” making up the security bureaucracy. In addition, it identified nearly 2,000 private firms as part of that bureaucracy.

The full-throated debate over how much secrecy is necessary and appropriate is far from over. But the journalism work helps inform the debate.

That’s the worldview of secrecy.

Now, the bad news. Check your wallet and purses for something more concrete you might soon have to worry about — your driver’s license.

The District government said Monday it finally is embarking on a plan to require that all 541,000 licenses and special identification cards issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles be changed to meet federal security standards for what are called “Real ID” licenses.

DMV director Lucinda Babers disclosed the depth of the program Monday. “If you have our existing driver’s license, eventually you will have to come back in — in person — because you’ve going to have to bring your proof of residency, your proof of identity” for DMV to validate it.

Babers, who has helped lead a significant improvement in DMV services since taking over seven years ago, said this is not just another way for the DMV to aggravate drivers — it’s a federal law. She said as of May 1, anyone changing an address, replacing a lost card, making a name change or just getting a new D.C. license will have to show documented proof of citizenship — a federal passport, a birth certificate or similar document. (A list is at dmv.dc.gov). The new license will be marked with a “star” to show that you’ve proved who you are.

Even if you have no reason to change your license and it isn’t due to expire — the Notebook’s doesn’t expire until 2020 — you’re still going to have to make a trip to a DMV office for the federal security upgrade. And you can’t do this upgrade online. You have to go in.

Babers said her office will soon begin sending postcard notices to those with current licenses that are valid. The notice will invite you to come in for the change and tell you what documents you can use. She’s urging everyone not to ignore the postcards.

“And if you look at it and say, ‘Uh, none of this could possibly apply to me so I’m just going to show up with nothing in hand,’ … please, please, please, it WILL apply.”

■ Undocumented licenses? The District, along with many other jurisdictions, has passed a law allowing undocumented workers to obtain driver’s licenses. Such workers already were driving, but without licenses or insurance. The new program finally begins on May 1. However, despite many complaints, the District’s new licenses for undocumented workers will be clearly marked “not for federal purposes.” That’s also a requirement of federal law. And you can’t just walk in to get one of the undocumented licenses. You have to call ahead to make an appointment — and be prepared to show you actually have lived in the District at least six months.

Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.

Photo Credit: Vernon Ogrodnek / Press of AC]]>
<![CDATA[Republicans Discuss Taking Back Power in Washington]]> Mon, 14 Apr 2014 12:20:34 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Rand+Paul+New+Hampshire+484395461.jpg At a weekend summit in New Hampshire, Republicans discuss how conservatives can retake power in Washington. NBC News Senior Political Editor Mark Murray reports.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Clinton Critical of Recent Changes to Civil Rights Act ]]> Thu, 10 Apr 2014 09:26:10 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000006074293_1200x675_221926979996.jpg Former President Bill Clinton Wednesday said he was critical of recent changes made to the Civil Rights Act that have made it more difficult for Americans to vote. News4’s Chris Lawrence reports from Austin. ]]> <![CDATA[President Carter Criticizes President Obama at Civil Rights Summit]]> Wed, 09 Apr 2014 22:20:06 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Jimmy+Carter+483445023.jpg At the Civil Rights Summit in Austin former President Jimmy Carter criticized President Barack Obama on his stance on equal pay and current civil rights leaders on the current civil rights movement. News4's Chris Lawrence reports from Texas.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Clinton Comments Plant Seed She Might Not Run for President]]> Wed, 09 Apr 2014 13:48:21 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/04-08-2014-hillary-clinton.jpg Hillary Clinton's comments that she didn't enjoy the discussion of political dysfunction when she was secretary of state have some doubting she'll run for president.]]> <![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: More Forums? Maybe Not]]> Wed, 09 Apr 2014 07:04:12 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/214*120/2014-04-09_0703.png

“Damn, another one,” muttered a candidate who shall remain anonymous, attending yet another mayoral forum shortly before the April 1 primary.

A calendar-crushing series of debates and forums is now an expected part of local Washington campaigns. But there are signs our upcoming general election may break this pattern. This campaign, we may not have any significant forums until after Sept. 8! We’ll explain below.

The record number (no one really keeps count) may have been set back in 1998, with more than 100 forums.

In this year’s Democratic primary, both Mayor Vincent Gray and eventual winner Muriel Bowser, the Ward 4 D.C. Council member, strategically attended or didn’t attend forums based on whether they fit their politics or their schedules. Meanwhile, the also-rans in the eight-person field raced to attend nearly every one possible.

But will Bowser, the early favorite in the November general election, embrace — or maybe barely tolerate or just plain ignore — forums that even now are being planned?

There is speculation that Bowser will attempt to marginalize at-large Council member David Catania, who is running as an independent. One way Bowser can undercut Catania is by avoiding joint appearances with him. One education group says it has already been informed that Bowser will plan such appearances only after candidates are certified for the November ballot.

That’s a long time off, folks.

According to the Board of Elections, petitions for the general election won’t be distributed until June 13. Candidates will have until Aug. 6 to turn them in with signatures. Then, there is a required 10-day challenge period through Aug. 18.

The elections board told us that the board won’t certify names on the November ballot until at least Sept. 8 — and that’s barring any unexpected delays.

That means we could go through five months of this seven-month campaign without community forums that many of you are expecting to hold. And that means Bowser could go the whole summer avoiding forums on a self-imposed technicality.

On last Friday’s “Politics Hour” on WAMU 88.5, before we knew the ballot wouldn’t be firmed up until Sept. 8, we directly raised the forum issue with Bowser. “Can we anticipate that you’ll go through this grueling list of forums that we normally have in a campaign? Or will you try to run outside of those forums?” we asked.

“Well, I don’t run away from people asking questions. I think you know that,” Bowser replied, directly suggesting that the media, by even asking, was trying to gin up a more exciting contest. “And we all know that it makes a good story to think we are going to have a competitive general. But we also know that that’s not what the early polling would suggest.”

That’s a reference to early polls showing Bowser ahead of Catania by 20 percent or more. But we have a seven-month campaign ahead of us.

We noted on the “Politics Hour” that city residents already are deep into discussions about education reform, including looming boundary changes and questions of per-pupil funding. They’re all central in the upcoming campaign, as well as whether Chancellor Kaya Henderson would stay in her post under either Catania or Bowser. And, we noted, Catania has visited more than 130 schools as council education chair and is making education his focus. Don’t the voters deserve a clear discussion of all of this?

Bowser, who like Catania has committed only to considering keeping Henderson, agreed that education policy is a central issue in this campaign.

“OK. I’m happy to talk about what’s important with me in education,” she told “Politics Hour” host Kojo Nnamdi and his guest analyst, Washington Post columnist Colbert I. King. “And we really don’t know who’s going to be in this race. So I have a potential opponent. And I’m looking forward to discussing our differences when the time is right.”

So, we tried again. Bowser clearly wasn’t embracing the forums.

“I’m sorry, I haven’t heard an answer on are you going to do all the [forums]? You’ll be invited to 20 different forums, at least. Do you anticipate you’ll more likely accept forums or minimize the number of forums you intend to go to?”

Bowser: “We’re going to participate in forums. I mean, I didn’t participate in every forum that I was invited to on this last race because it was impossible. And so the balance that our campaign …”

Sherwood: “Barring scheduling problems, you’ll be at the forums?”

Bowser: “Pardon me?”

Sherwood: “Barring scheduling forums you’ll …”

Bowser: “Well, having not been invited …”

Kojo Nnamdi: “Barring scheduling problems.”

Bowser: “… to any of them, I can’t, like, accept in advance.”

On Monday, we called Catania for his view of the forums. As an underdog starting out, he welcomed them. “It’s very simple,” he told us. “If my schedule permits, I’ll attend. I think the sooner the better. It’s very respectful of the voters who were turned off by the primary.”

It’s worth noting that the turnout for the primary — 22.5 percent, without accounting for absentee or special ballots — was a 30-year low.

So, to all the community, education, media, business, labor and assorted other groups out there, you’d better get those forum requests in quick. We have a feeling this seven-month campaign may not have much room or time for you.

Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.

<![CDATA[D.C. Council Considers Lifting Restrictions on Medical Marijuana]]> Tue, 08 Apr 2014 19:03:08 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/6d1e27321249485c976dbb0db6d138be.jpg

All 13 members of the D.C. Council signed on to a bill that would lift restrictions on who qualifies for medical marijuana.

Steph Scherer has been waiting years for this to happen.

“Like most Americans are finding when it comes to your health and laws are outdated, we’re going to break them,” she said.

Scherer lives in pain due to a neurological disorder. Several years ago she was prescribed 2400 mgs of ibuprofen a day, but while the drugs eased her pain, they quickly took a toll on her body.

“About a year-and-a-half into treating a neck injury, I started having issues with fatigue,” she said. “My skin started turning yellow, and my doctor told me that my kidneys were failing.”

Scherer was living in California, where medical marijuana is legal.

“My options were stay in bed and save my kidneys, continue to take the prescription drugs and lose my kidneys, or try cannabis,” Scherer said.

The marijuana worked, but in 2007 she moved to D.C. where medical marijuana is legal but only for very specific conditions, like HIV or cancer. Scherer did not qualify.

“So I’ve been living like a criminal in D.C. since 2007,” she said.

The bill considered by the D.C. Council Tuesday would leave it up to doctors to decide who should have access to marijuana.

“We know there are people out there, more than 4,000 people out there, that could use medical marijuana for their conditions,” at-large Council member David Grosso said.

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray supports increasing access to medical marijuana. The council will hold its first hearing on the proposal next month and could vote on it before summer.

One concern facing lawmakers could be the message decriminalization of marijuana and expanding the medical use will send to children whose parents are trying to keep them from trying what many believe is a gateway drug.

<![CDATA[ Louisiana Congressman Caught on Camera Kissing Staffer]]> Tue, 08 Apr 2014 12:18:21 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/214*120/2014-04-08_0720.png

A congressman is asking for forgiveness after he was caught on camera kissing a woman who is not his wife.

The Ouachita Citizen posted the video of Louisiana Representative Vance McAllister on its website Monday. The paper says the video was recorded just after Christmas outside McAllister's district office and shows him passionately kissing his district scheduler, who is also married.

"I'm asking for forgiveness from God, my wife, my kids, my staff, and my constituents who elected me to serve," McAllister said in a statement, adding that he's "fallen short."

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says he's pleased McAllister apologized, but he stopped short of calling for U.S. Rep. Vance McAllistir to resign.

Cantor, of Virginia, says McAllister's constituents deserved the apology. But he said he would "reserve further judgment.''

McAllister was elected in November after running as a devout Christian with family values.

He and his wife have five children.

<![CDATA[More Speed Cams to Balance D.C. Budget?]]> Tue, 08 Apr 2014 08:52:28 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/DC-Hidden-Speed-Camera.jpg

More roadside speed cameras could be Washington D.C.'s future as Mayor Vincent Gray's new budget calls for the city to collect an additional $50 million in speeding fines over the coming year. One council member called it "gotcha" government.

Gray said his budget is balanced in part by that steep rise in speed camera fines from more speed cameras on different streets at different times. The mayor's budget director said Motorists too often avoid permanent cameras, said the mayor’s budget director, Eric Goulet.

“What you've found as residents, when the mayor goes out and when I’ve been at budget town halls, particularly, complain about people slowing down for the fixed traffic cameras and then speeding up as soon as those are and then speeding through neighborhoods,” Goulet said.

At-large Council member David Catania, an independent candidate for mayor, suggested the city ought to better warn motorists.

“I think we need to do a public service announcement, to some extent, or a push that lets people know this because nothing makes people angrier than this gotcha mentality of this government that balances its budgets by these kinds of mechanisms,” Catania said.

Despite that concern, city police are moving ahead, according to the mayor’s office.

“What MPD has tried to do is have more mobile devices so that when they’re not needed in one location you can move them someplace else and then address people who may be speeding through our neighborhoods,” Goulet said. “So that would be the goal would be to move the cameras in a way to really discourage speeding throughout the city.”

Photo Credit: NBCWashington.com]]>
<![CDATA[Va. Del. Lopez Drops Out of Race to Succeed Rep. Moran]]> Sat, 05 Apr 2014 06:57:11 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/US-Capitol.jpg

The crowded field of Democrats hoping to succeed Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., in Congress got a little smaller Friday.

Delegate Alfonso Lopez of Arlington announced he's ending his campaign.

In a statement, Lopez said as the latest fundraising quarter came to an end, he realized he didn't have the resources necessary to continue.

There are still 10 Democrats seeking the party's nomination. The primary is June 10.

Photo Credit: AP Images]]>
<![CDATA[Moran: Members of Congress Are Underpaid]]> Fri, 04 Apr 2014 14:29:10 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000006014602_1200x675_216392259567.jpg Va. Congressman Jim Moran thinks he and his colleagues should earn more money, and one reason is the cost of living in Washington. Mark Murray, NBC's senior political editor, speaks on why was this such an unpopular thing to say -- but why it's not entirely untrue.]]> <![CDATA[Md. Delegate Pushes to Decriminalize Pot Now]]> Sat, 05 Apr 2014 10:31:46 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/6d1e27321249485c976dbb0db6d138be.jpg

A member of Maryland's Legislative Black Caucus is asking the House to fully decriminalize marijuana this year instead of just commissioning a study on the prospect.

Del. Keiffer Mitchell Jr., a Baltimore Democrat, submitted an amendment Friday afternoon that would restore the decriminalization bill recently passed by the Senate.

Mitchell's move could force the bill to a vote by the entire chamber, rather than leaving it to a 22-member committee.

The House will consider the matter again Saturday, and Mitchell said in an interview that he's close to getting the votes his amendment needs.

The Senate's bill would eliminate criminal charges for possessing small amounts of marijuana and institute a maximum fine of $100 instead. The House Judiciary Committee watered the bill down by assigning a task force to study decriminalization policies.

"I just couldn't sit on my hands,'' Mitchell said outside the House chamber. "I normally respect the committee process, but it came out of the Senate as a bill on decriminalization.''

Mitchell told his colleagues it's an urgent matter because black residents are being arrested for marijuana possession disproportionately to white people who use the drug.

The American Civil Liberties Union found last year that black people in Baltimore are 5.6 times more likely than the city's white residents to be arrested for marijuana possession. In Garrett County, they're more than six times more likely, the ACLU reported.

Nationwide, that arrest rate is 2.9 times higher.

Mitchell said the Senate's bill is by no means radical; 16 other states and Washington, D.C., have taken similar measures.

Last year an analogous bill passed the Maryland Senate but died in the House Judiciary Committee.