<![CDATA[NBC4 Washington - Politics]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/politics http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/WASH+NBC4+BLUE.png NBC4 Washington http://www.nbcwashington.com en-us Fri, 30 Jan 2015 18:21:28 -0500 Fri, 30 Jan 2015 18:21:28 -0500 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Va. Senate Votes to Ban Common Core]]> Fri, 30 Jan 2015 15:38:24 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/classroom5.jpg

The state Senate has voted to prohibit adoption of the national Common Core curriculum standards in Virginia public schools without prior approval from the General Assembly.

Sen. Richard Black's measure passed the Republican-controlled chamber Friday on a largely party-line 21-17 vote. It now goes to the House of Delegates.

Black, a Loudoun County Republican, said there is widespread opposition to the national standards, ranging from conservatives and libertarians to teachers unions.

Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe's administration opposed Black's bill, calling it unnecessary because the state has no plans to adopt the Common Core standards.

The standards have been adopted by 43 states.
 

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<![CDATA[Montgomery County Considers Mandatory Paid Sick Leave]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 23:34:44 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000009310757_1200x675_391266883649.jpg Montgomery County is considering whether businesses should be required to give workers paid sick leave. Chris Lawrence reports.]]> <![CDATA[Hillary to Delay '16 Announcement?]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 16:35:24 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000009305002_1200x675_390874179767.jpg NBC's Carrie Dann discusses a Politico report stating Hillary Clinton may delay a presidential campaign launch until July.]]> <![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: The Bureaucracy Issue]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 07:04:23 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/dc-flag-shutterstock_206336772.jpg

We tested our readers last week. We threw out the word “interoperability” and challenged the bureaucracy to speak more plainly.

And now, so you really can appreciate bureaucracy, we’re going to wallow in it again.

One person offered a quote from famed Navy Adm. Hyman Rickover, the father of the nuclear Navy:

“If you are going to sin, sin against God, not the bureaucracy. God will forgive you but the bureaucracy won’t.”

So asking for your forgiveness, we plunge ahead.

■ Performance time. If you want to sit in on lots of public hearings, make plans to head to the D.C. Council soon.

Beginning on Feb. 9 and continuing through March 13, the council plans about five weeks of hearings on every aspect of how city agencies have performed over the last year. You can see the whole list and maybe sign up to testify here.

And if that doesn’t provide you enough bureaucracy, don’t despair.

About the time the performance hearings are ending, the 2016 budget will step into the spotlight. The council will launch another set of exhaustive hearings in April on that document.

Mayor Muriel Bowser normally would submit her 2016 budget on March 15. But all new mayors get a two-week grace period, said Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans, chair of the Finance and Revenue Committee. Why so many performance hearings that are followed immediately by budget hearings going over the same territory? “Because we’ve always done it this way,” Evans laughed.

■ This isn’t encrypted. We had an interesting response to our item last week on how police and fire departments are “encrypting” radio transmissions so that terrorists, homegrown bad guys and the media can hear what’s going on.

Lee Williams, a 39-year law enforcement person with 45 years as a monitor of public safety radio, questioned the need to shut the public out. “As [encryption] spreads across our country, it promotes the ‘us-against-them’ mentality and does absolutely nothing to promote officer safety,” he wrote.

Mr. Williams suggested that we “make [our] argument” more about leaving the dispatch channel open while other tactical channels could be encrypted for secure communications. He said that none of the fire channels need be encrypted “except for mutual aid channels.” Consider his recommendations fertile ground for the securicrats.

■ Bureaucratic-speak. You may want to use the next two items as sleep-aids. Again, last week we highlighted the uber-bureaucratic word “interoperability.” All that means is having a way for diverse groups to communicate. But it prompted some other examples of bureaucratic-speak.

Word for word, from a D.C. Public Service Commission order: “The Commission’s second January 22 Order was in response to Pepco/DDOT’s Application for Clarification or, in the Alternative,

Reconsideration of the Commission’s Triennial Plan Order. In that Order, the Commission clarified its Triennial Plan Order by stating (1) the Undergrounding Project Consumer Education Task Force (‘UPCE Task Force’) will replace the Communications Coordination Committee and Consumer Advisory Group originally proposed in Pepco/DDOT’s joint communication/education plan; (2) the initial meeting of the UPCE Task Force may take place sometime between the second and third quarters of this calendar year (instead of by January 12 of this year, as the Commission initially directed in its Triennial Plan Order); (3) the UPCE Task Force members must be selected through the District’s formalized process; (4) Pepco/DDOT can submit their final construction/design plans pursuant to the detailed schedule they will submit on February 11, 2015 when they file their list of estimated start and end dates for each of the Triennial Plan projects; and (5) Pepco’s forthcoming February 11, 2015 filing must also include a schedule detailing the installation of smart-grid devices.”

And this, from a federal Homeland Security press release: “NPPD CS&C Stakeholder Engagement and Cyber Infrastructure Resilience Industry Engagement & Resilience Director will deliver remarks on the implementation of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Cybersecurity Framework and the Critical Infrastructure Cyber Community Voluntary Program at the Professional Risk Managers’ International Association, Washington D.C. Chapter and George Washington University joint event.”

Having wallowed in bureaucracy, please carry on.


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

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<![CDATA[Decreased Speed Cam Revenue May Have Contributed to Budget Shortfall]]> Tue, 27 Jan 2015 19:25:51 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/DC+Speed+Cameras+Red+Light+Cameras+Photo+Enforcement+Sign.jpg

The District of Columbia is facing a nearly $40 million budget shortfall in part because the police department didn't replace batteries in some speed cameras and other traffic enforcement cameras, Mayor Muriel Bowser acknowledged Tuesday.

The problem was first reported by the Washington Post.

"I think they were delayed in being installed or not turned on when they should have been," Bowser said Tuesday. "I don’t know the details of which, or really why, but I do know it's created a shortfall."

Last year, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said the decline in the number of tickets being issued was because the camera program was working so well that drivers were changing their behavior. Lanier didn't say anything about cameras not being installed on time or about maintenance problems.

Tuesday, a spokesperson for the police said in a statement, "During periods of extreme cold and snow last winter, there were instances when we could not change the batteries because they were not accessible, or the temperature affected the charge.

"We have taken additional steps to enhance internal temperature controls since last winter alleviating this problem," the statement read.

The $38 million shortfall from the decline in tickets being issued could lead to budget cuts. Bowser and District councilmembers said they hoped that would not be the case, though Bowser added, "If we were counting on those dollars we will have to make it up somewhere."

But one District councilmember said he'd rather not balance the District's budget on revenue from traffic enforcement.

"I'm not surprised that things didn't get done, and going forward I want to look at not using this as a major revenue source for the city," said Councilmember Jack Evans.

"We don’t think we should be balancing the budget on red light camera revenue," Evans said. "It's uncertain, it's unfair, and when we look to lower fines we can't, because we balance the budget on it."

Council chairman Phil Mendelson said the District's reliance on camera revenue had made the government "greedy."

"When we get too greedy about how much we get in revenue, anytime there’s a little blip we have a budget problem," Mendelson said.



Photo Credit: NBCWashington.com]]>
<![CDATA[Koch Brothers Plan to Spend Nearly $1B on '16]]> Tue, 27 Jan 2015 13:53:59 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/216*120/2015-01-27_1347.jpg NBC political writer Carrie Dann discusses President Obama's quick trip to Saudi Arabia, and the Koch Brothers' plan to spend almost $1 billion on the 2016 election.]]> <![CDATA[Wisc. Gov. Scott Walker Gaining Attention]]> Mon, 26 Jan 2015 13:05:31 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000009265620_1200x675_389198915981.jpg Last weekend was a big one for Republican who could run for president in 2016. Carrie Dann, political writer for NBC News, shares who got noticed and who did not. Dann also discusses jabs taken at Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton.]]> <![CDATA[Christie Woos Iowa Conservatives]]> Sun, 25 Jan 2015 01:46:55 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/12415chris.jpg

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is trying to connect with Iowa conservatives by assuring them that "you'll always know who I am" if he runs for president.

While still undeclared, Christie left few doubts Saturday at the Iowa Freedom Summit that he is primed to enter the 2016 GOP race.

Christie told the Republican voters in the leadoff primary state in the nomination battle that they shouldn't let his blunt style turn them off. To those not enamored with all aspects of his record, Christie asserted "you'll always know what I believe and you'll always know where I stand."

He spoke at length about his anti-abortion views, which tends to resonate with Iowa's social conservative caucus-goers.

Christie, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and many others turned the Iowa Freedom Forum into the unofficial launch of the next campaign for the Iowa caucuses. More than 1,000 religious conservatives met at a refurbished theater to hear their pitches.

The forum's sponsor, Rep. Steve King of Iowa, opened the event by asking the crowd, "Do you believe that the next president of the United States is going to be speaking to you today?"

The audience erupted in applause and King responded, "As do I."

Few would pick Christie, an abortion rights and gay marriage opponent better known for his union and budget battles, to emerge as the favorite among Iowa's evangelical voters. Yet his appearance could allow him to make inroads with a group focused as much on ideological purity as defeating the Democrat nominated to follow President Barack Obama.

"He has gusto that makes him an everyman. That appeals to me," 29-year-old Steve Friend of Sioux City said of Christie. "But I think he tanked the 2012 election by praising President Obama after (superstorm) Sandy."

Christie has defended his praise of the president for visiting storm-ravaged New Jersey in the weeks before Romney lost. But it's an image that sticks in the craw of Iowa's most right-wing conservatives.

"I don't trust him," said Mary Kay Hauser, another forum attendee. "I think he's disingenuous. I think he's part of the old New Jersey party."
 

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<![CDATA[Sen. Rubio Taking Steps Toward Possible 2016 Run]]> Fri, 23 Jan 2015 18:51:11 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/121113+marco+rubio.jpg

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio rode into Washington on a wave of anti-Obamacare sentiment in 2010. He may soon be hoping to ride a similar wave all the way up Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House in 2016.

NBC News has confirmed that Senator Rubio is taking steps to prepare for a run for the White House in the 2016 election. The news was first reported by ABC News on Friday.

Rubio has hired Anna Rogers to be his finance director. Rogers comes from American Crossroads, a Super PAC backed by former senior Bush advisor Karl Rove. Rogers is expected to start her new job with the Rubio campaign in the first week of February.

The senator has laid out plans to visit multiple states for the next month and will skip Senate votes next week in order to attend fundraisers in California.

Rubio’s rapid rise to political stardom started in the Florida Legislature, which he led at one point. He entered the 2010 Senate race far behind then-Governor Charlie Crist and was able to outflank Crist in the Republican primary. The moves electrified Rubio’s political star and sent Crist’s political career tumbling.

Rubio won his seat in 2010 primarily based on the Tea Party wave of anti-Obamacare sentiment. He also benefitted from having a three-way race with Crist as an independent and Kendrick Meek running as a Democrat. The two effectively split the electorate opposing Rubio, opening the door to the Senate for Rubio.

The junior senator from Florida may be hoping to start and catch a similar wave to the White House that Obama followed when he ran after just two years in the Senate. However, Rubio would have filled out his entire first-term if he runs in 2016.

The path to the White House for Rubio will be much tougher. He angered many of the Tea Party voters that supported him when he helped pass a bi-partisan, comprehensive immigration reform bill a few years ago.

As the conservative backlash started, Rubio quickly backed away from support on many of the bill’s key policies and won back support from some of the voters who lifted him to the White House. He will also face a field full of big Republican names hoping to win the nomination.

While none have officially declared their pursuit of the presidency, it’s expected that Mitt Romney will make a run at the White House. He could be joined by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, Dr. Ben Carson, Senator Ted Cruz, Senator Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina, former Senator Rick Santorum, former Governor Rick Perry, and former Florida governor Jeb Bush.

“The interesting thing here is that Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush are friends they look like they are both running for each other and they both live really close to each other and that is going to make for one interesting kind of awkward campaign,” said Miami Herald political reporter Marc Caputo.

Bush could prove to be the biggest obstacle for Rubio to make a successful presidential bid. Bush has more experience as an executive and skillfully navigated the Florida political machine for two terms as governor and is still well-liked by many of his former supporters in the Sunshine State.

“I think Jeb is going to be the one that’s going to finish the race,” said Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. “Marco is still a young boy. He has a lot of years left in him.”

Rubio said Bush has the political acumen to raise the amount of money necessary to mount a successful presidential campaign. The 2016 presidential campaign could end up being a multi-billion dollar campaign and will likely be the most expensive in U.S. History.

Rubio has been a fierce critic of almost every policy move made by the Obama Administration. He’s also been a leading critic of the move to normalize relations with Cuba, though polls show a national majority back the moves by the White House.

For Republicans, if Rubio follows his previous comments that he will not run for re-election to the Senate if he runs for president (which also is a Florida law); his plans may open up a new battleground in the almost evenly-divided swing state of Florida.

That could prove especially beneficial to Democrats. The 2016 electoral map is expected to tilt towards the Democrats in many swing states and voter turnout could help Democrats re-take the U.S. Senate and also keep the White House.

Rubio could also be angling for another key position in a potential Republican White House, that of vice-president. If Rubio doesn’t win the presidential nomination, he could be a leading contender to join the winner’s ticket as the vice-presidential candidate.

Still, whoever the Republicans end up choosing to run for the White House will have one of the toughest challenges ahead in the general election, a potential Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.

“If Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush run against Hillary Clinton; they’re gonna lose and they’re not only going to lose the White House race, they’re even going to lose their home state of Florida,” said Caputo. “But, that is what the polling says now. And as you know and I know, in a state like Florida; don’t predict the elections too early, heck even on election day as we sometimes don’t know the winner.”



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Boehner Invites Netanyahu to Address Congress]]> Thu, 22 Jan 2015 12:43:06 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000009230918_1200x675_387679811614.jpg NBC Political Reporter Carrie Dann explores Speaker Boehner's choice to invite Netanyahu to address Congress without consulting the White House.]]> <![CDATA[Top NY Lawmaker Arrested on Corruption Charges: Source]]> Thu, 22 Jan 2015 22:21:24 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/silver7.jpg

New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested Thursday on federal corruption charges and is accused of using his position in the state legislature to collect millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks, according to a criminal complaint.

Silver, who has held office in the State Assembly since 1976 and been speaker of the legislative body since 1994, turned himself into the FBI at its field office near Foley Square Thursday morning.

The embattled legislator told reporters after his court appearance that he did not plan to resign.

"I will be vindicated," he said. 

His attorneys, Joel Cohen and Steven Molo, released a joint statement calling the allegations baseless.

"We’re disappointed that the prosecutors have chosen to proceed with these meritless criminal charges," the attorneys' statement said. "That said, Mr. Silver looks forward to responding to them -- in court -- and ultimately his full exoneration.”

At a news briefing shortly after Silver's arrest, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara accused the longtime politician of duping taxpayers through a series of secretive schemes and backroom dealings to line his own pockets, and "cleverly" seeking ways to monetize his public office in violation of federal law.

Silver allegedly collected around $4 million in bribes and kickbacks and used his law license and lax New York disclosure laws to disguise the profits as referral fees, Bharara said.

Those alleged ill-gotten gains accounted for two-thirds of the speaker's outside income since 2002, the prosecutor added. Bharara said a judge issued warrants allowing authorities to seize $3.8 million Silver had dispersed in eight bank accounts at six different banks in alleged fraud proceeds.

"For many years, New Yorkers have asked the question, 'How could Speaker Silver, one of the most powerful men in all of New York, earn millions of dollars in outside income without deeply compromising his ability to honestly service his constituents?'" Bharara said. "Today, we provide the answer. He didn't."

The five-count criminal complaint unsealed Thursday focuses on two alleged schemes by which Silver acquired millions -- attorney referral payments and alleged real estate kickbacks. One firm, identified by sources familiar with the investigation as Goldberg & Iryami, allegedly paid Silver about $700,000 over the course of about a decade in "undisclosed bribes and kickbacks" to get real estate developers in the state to do their business with the firm.

One of the real estate developers, described in the court papers as "Developer 1," is Leonard Litwin of Glenwood Management, according to the sources. The sources said Litwin cooperated with investigators, as did law firm partner Jay Goldberg.

The firm Weitz and Luxemberg also allegedly paid Silver about $5.3 million since 2002. About $1.4 million came from an annual salary, which the complaint alleges Silver received "based on his official position rather than any work he was expected to perform."

"For many years New Yorkers have also asked the question, 'What exactly does Speaker Silver do to earn his substantial outside income?'" Bharara said. "Well, the head-scratching can come to an end on that score, too, because we answer that question today as well. He does nothing."

The rest of the money came from attorney referral fees, with about $3 million coming by way of a scheme where Silver allegedly passed on asbestos cases from a New York doctor, identified by sources as Dr. Robert Taub, in exchange for secretly providing Taub access to $500,000 in state grants and research funds. Taub is the director of the Columbia University Mesothelioma Center. 

Investigators said Silver referred about 100 clients to the firm, but none of the asbestos clients or their family had ever had any contact with Silver at all, court papers said.

Taub cooperated with investigators, sources said.

Messages left with Goldberg, Litwin and Taub were not immediately returned. 

Despite making assurances that he represents "plain ordinary and simple people," investigators found no court records indicating that Silver ever made a single appearance in state or federal court.

"The problem for Sheldon Silver was that he was neither a doctor nor an asbestos lawyer, so Silver did not have relevant legal or medical expertise, but what he did have was extraordinary power over state money that he had the ability to dole out quietly, even secretly," Bharara said.

Bharara had been focusing on how state representatives earned and reported income after the Moreland Commission was shut down in Albany before completing its own examination of alleged wrongdoing in Albany. Bharara says that too was Silver's doing.

"A deal was cut that cut off the commission's work to the great relief of Sheldon Silver, who furiously fought its subpoenas and urged the commission's early shutdown," he said. "Moreland was made to close its doors after only nine months, its work barely begun, and while litigation over those subpoenas about Sheldon Silver's outside income was still pending before a state judge."

If convicted of all five counts in the complaint, Silver faces up to 100 years in prison. He did not enter a plea during a brief court appearance Thursday and was released on $200,000 bond. Silver surrendered his passport and was told he needs permission to travel anywhere outside New York, New Jersey and Washington, D.C.  

Mayor de Blasio said New York should let the judicial process play out. 

"Although the charges announced today are very serious I want to note that I have always known Shelly Silver to be a man of integrity and he certainly has due process rights and I think it’s important that we let the judicial process play out here," the mayor said.

Questions in the past have been raised about Silver’s outside income that supplement his part-time assembly work and he has always denied wrongdoing.

In a statement Thursday, FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard Frankel said Silver took advantage of his "political pulpit" to reap unlawful rewards.

"We hold our elected representatives to the highest standards and expect them to act in the best interest of their constituents," Frankel said. "In good faith, we trust they will do so while defending the fundamental tenets of the legal system. But as we are reminded today, those who make the laws don’t have the right to break the laws."

Albany has had its fair share of corruption scandals over the years. The last legislative leader to be charged was former State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno. Bruno, a Republican, was acquitted last year after fighting two federal corruption counts for much of the last decade.

Bharara’s office is prosecuting Democratic state Sen. Malcolm Smith in an alleged scheme to bribe his way to run for mayor as a Republican, and has charged numerous other current and former state and local politicians including State Sens. Vincent Leibell, Hiram Monserrate and Carl Kruger and New York City councilman Larry Seabrook.

-- Pete Williams and Richard Esposito contributed to this report.  



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Protesters Call for End to Corporate Money in Politics]]> Wed, 21 Jan 2015 21:11:57 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/citizensprotest.jpg

Several dozen people gathered near the White House Wednesday to call for the end of corporate spending in politics.

Wednesday marked the fifth anniversary of the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United vs. FEC. The 2010 decision loosened rules on campaign spending by corporations and unions.

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) spoke to the crowd gathered in Lafayette Park despite the falling snow. Corporations should have a more limited function in the electoral process, he said.

"A corporation is a very limited entity," he said. "It has a very specified role. Its job is to deliver a product or service that is safe to customers who want it and to ... do well by their customers, by their workers, by their shareholders and by the communities they're in. That's all they're supposed to be doing."

In Citizens United, the Supreme Court held that corporations and labor unions have the right to spend their own money on independent advertising to support or oppose political candidates.

Supporters argue that spending money is a form of free speech that should not be limited by the government.

Protesters disrupted the first few minutes of the Supreme Court's session Wednesday. Seven people were arrested as they shouted slogans against the decision five years ago.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA["Pivotal": LGBT Groups Praise Obama's "Historic" SOTU]]> Wed, 21 Jan 2015 18:38:42 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/obama+state+of+union.JPG

LGBT rights activists and organizations across the country are applauding President Barack Obama for becoming the first U.S. president to use the words "lesbian," "bisexual" and "transgender" in a State of the Union Address.

In the nearly hour-long address in front of Congress Tuesday, Obama condemned persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, while declaring that same-sex marriage is a “civil right.” His remarks come on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court agreement last week to rule on whether all 50 states must allow gay and lesbian couples to marry.

"As Americans, we respect human dignity, even when we're threatened, which is why I've prohibited torture, and worked to make sure our use of new technology like drones is properly constrained," Obama in his sixth State of the Union address. "That's why we defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. We do these things not only because they're right, but because they make us safer."

Masen Davis, executive director of the Transgender Law Center in California, said the mention made the speech “especially historic for transgender and bisexual people.” The first-of-its-kind nature of the reference was widely reported following the Tuesday night address and confirmed by NBC Owned Television Stations.

“We’ve never heard a president address their needs during a State of the Union Address,” Davis said. “That was just historic. By simply saying the word 'transgender' in a speech, it represents the progress for transgender people and the United State’s broader movement for equality for all.”

Mara Keisling, executive director of the Washington D.C-based National Center for Transgender Equality said that the “mention of us” is a way that “empower trans people to stand taller and work harder.”

“The president of the United States condemning persecution against transgender people is pivotal,” the transgender rights activist said in a statement.

Former NFL player Wade Davis II, executive director for You Can Play Project, an advocacy organization that is working to eradicate homophobia in sports, said the inclusion shows that society is starting to recognize that "gay" is not a universal term for those in the LGBT community.

“It’s not an inclusive term for someone who is bisexual or transgender, and we hope people would realize that,” said Davis, who came out as gay in 2012. “The struggle of someone being gay is not a representative of the struggles of someone who is bisexual or transgender. Gay is not this universal term that stands for lesbians, bisexual and transgender. And transgender has zero to do with sexual orientation.”

While the wait may have been long for a U.S president to make such move at the annual joint session of Congress, Obama’s calls for LGBT rights and protections are not entirely new. He was the country's first sitting leader to support same-sex marriage, an announcement he made in 2012.

Obama made a more robust move in 2013, when he reportedly became the first president to use the word “gay” during an inaugural address ─ at his second inauguration in 2013. Last year, the president signed an executive order extending protection against discrimination in the workplace for gay and transgender workers in the federal government.

Masen Davis said more work need to be done, and he urged Congress to pass laws to help LGBT individuals get more access to the services they need, including protections against housing discrimination.

Wade Davis, the NFL player, echoed those remarks, saying he hopes Obama’s message Tuesday night “will start some serious conversations about the discrimination” people in the LGBT community faces, particularly transgender individuals.

“It’s unfortunate for this to be the first time a president talks about it, but it speaks to some come change that is happening,” Wade Davis said. “I hope that the outcome of those conversations will be a policy. Talking without having a policy to back it up is just empty.”



Photo Credit: ap]]>
<![CDATA[What to Expect From New Md. Gov. Hogan]]> Wed, 21 Jan 2015 16:02:30 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20141104+Hogan.jpg

Larry Hogan was sworn in as Maryland governor Wednesday, becoming just the second Republican to hold the post in more than 45 years. He'll face a $750 million budget deficit, a legislature controlled by Democrats and an electorate awaiting the tax cuts he promised on the campaign trail.

But what he will try to do in office remains something of a mystery, political observers say.

"He was not at all specific about policies during the campaign," said Donald F. Norris, director of the School of Public Policy, University of Maryland, Baltimore County. "He basically ran against the outgoing governor for being a tax-and-spend liberal and claimed that we were not only overtaxed but over-regulated."

Hogan, 58, defeated Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown last fall, in what was described as an astonishing upset and a rebuke to two-term Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley and the tax increases he implemented. Hogan, a commercial real estate broker, is the son of a former congressman and county executive for Prince George's County in Maryland. He is the state's second Republican governor since former Vice President Spiro Agnew held the role.

Hogan has promised better fiscal management, but now must contend with spending formulas that control some of the budget's largest expenses.

"I can't see him imposing new taxes so really he's left with cuts and that's where he begins to engage real battle with the legislature," said Jennifer Duffy, a senior editor for The Cook Political Report.

Mandated appropriations account for 81 percent of the state's portion of spending proposed for the 2015 fiscal year beginning in July, according to a November report from the Department of Legislative Services' Office of Policy Analysis. The two-year budget shortfall has grown to nearly $1.2 billion.

"Beyond what's in his initial budget, I think you'll see him trying to change some of those mandatory spending patterns to give the state a little bit more flexibility and an ability to avoid ongoing structural deficits," said Todd Eberly, associate professor of political science and chairman of Political Science Department at St. Mary's College of Maryland.

Hogan vowed during the campaign that he would work with the state legislature, and observers will be watching carefully to see how long bipartisanship will last in a state with a 2-to-1 Democratic registration.

"I would say the two presiding officers in the state legislature are moderate to conservative Democrats but their rank and file, particularly in the House, are very liberal so that's going to be a pressure point for all of these four years," said Josh Kurtz, a political blogger for Center Maryland.

Kurtz and others noted that the previous Republican governor, Bob Ehrlich, similarly pledged compromise but instead fought with the legislature through much of his single four-year term.

"So if Hogan chooses to fight with the Democrats, it's going to be an ugly four years," Norris said. "He won't get anything accomplished. If he can find ground for compromise and cooperation, then I think things will work out pretty well for both sides. We just have to wait and see."

Hogan, who won 54 percent of the vote to 45 percent for Brown, has said he wants to appeal two environmental measures: a storm water remediation fee, otherwise known as the rain tax, and regulations governing how much nitrogen can be released into the Chesapeake Bay, particularly from chicken farmers on the Eastern Shore, Norris said.

Hogan also has questioned the expense of two large public transit projects on the boards: the Baltimore Red Line, a 14-mile light rail transit line linking the city's east and west sides to the downtown that would cost $2.9 billion, and the Greater Washington Purple Line, a 16-mile east-west transit line connecting Bethesda to New Carrollton that would cost $2.45 billion. Both would gotten $100 million in federal funding, and could get up to $900 million each if Maryland signs funding agreements.

In recent days, Hogan refused to discuss the projects until after he took office, but during the campaign, he said he would spend money on roads rather than on expanding public transportation.
Observers noted that he was elected by predominantly suburban and rural voters.

Others programs that could prompt objections from voters if Hogan tries to cut them: school construction and prekindergarten.

"Nobody really knows what Hogan is going to be like when things don't go his way because he's never held elective office before," Kurtz said. "So in that respect, he's a big mystery."

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<![CDATA[Marion C. Barry Turns Himself in After Outburst at Bank]]> Wed, 21 Jan 2015 20:06:27 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/216*120/0119-barry.jpg

The son of the late Marion Barry turned himself in Wednesday to face charges stemming from an angry outburst at a local bank.

Marion Christopher Barry turned himself in at 6 a.m. He was detained for several hours and released Wednesday afternoon.

Barry, who is a candidate in the special election to fill his father's unexpired term, faces three misdemeanor charges: assault, destruction of property and making threats to do bodily harm, according to court documents.

Barry also apologized for the incident Wednesday, saying he is "committed to rise up and carry the torch" of his father's legacy.

"I know that I have a great responsibility as a leader in Ward 8," the apology went on to say.

Last week, Barry cursed a PNC bank teller on 7th Street downtown, after she refused to let him withdraw $20,000 from a bank account that was already overdrafted by $2,000. 

According to court documents, Barry said he would "have somebody waiting for you when you get off work," according to a police report.

Barry then threw a trash can over the security glass, destroying a security camera valued at $1,000, documents said. The incident was captured on security cameras.

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<![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: ‘Interoperability’ Indeed]]> Wed, 21 Jan 2015 06:15:05 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/estacion-metro-washington.jpg

We really don’t have to wait months for the professional report from the National Transportation Safety Board on Metro’s equipment malfunction and slow response to last week’s fatal incident.

The simple truth is this: After 47 years in business, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority doesn’t have a working safety plan with clear guidelines on what its staff and responding emergency crews need to do to act and communicate in any situation.

In fact, we can further reduce the problem to a famous line in the 1967 movie “Cool Hand Luke”: “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.” (An aside: This quote often inaccurately is written as “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”)

A D.C. fire department report on the smoky malfunction, released over the weekend, said firefighters could not communicate effectively in the tunnel because there were no radio connections. Some firefighters had to use cellphones. The report also said the fire department previously had notified Metro — before the emergency — that there were gaps in radio accessibility. NBC4’s transportation reporter Adam Tuss has heard from multiple sources that there are communication “dead spots” all over the Metro system.

Ever since 9/11, the word “interoperability” has gained traction as the go-to word in failed emergency responses. You’ll be hearing it again and again as reports show emergency responders couldn’t talk to one another. There has been a sea of meetings on how to get first responders on the same wavelength.

Your Notebook would like see the word “interoperability” made inoperable itself. The word is a bureaucrat’s catnip. Instead, let’s use real words.

“Communicate.”

“Talk.”

“Connect.”

Any ordinary word would do.

Metro itself, the jurisdictions that pay for it and the emergency responders we depend upon need to remove the bureaucratic barnacles that quite simply are endangering our lives.

A Monday letter to The Washington Post from Marianne Bailey of Alexandria summarized the situation, recalling another Metro incident at the same station:

“No one seems to be talking about a December 2011 incident on the Blue and Orange lines outside of L’Enfant Plaza that also caused smoke (with flames) and stranded passengers (I was among them).

“Slow response and a lack of communication led some passengers to ad-lib their escape. We were there for so long that the emergency lighting in the tunnel timed out, and responders used glow sticks when they finally walked us down the tunnel. Was there follow-up? Lessons learned? Accountability? Why haven’t Metro and D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services put workable joint procedures in place?

“This is not a funding issue; it is a management and training issue. This time, let’s not forget and move on before it is fixed.”

■ Tuning the public out. In recent years, police and fire departments across the country have been switching aggressively to “encrypted” radio communications. The D.C. police and fire have done so, making it impossible for citizens or the news media to hear and assess what’s happening in real time.

Even though these public safety departments already had existing secure radio channels on which to pass sensitive information, they contended that mainline channels have to be encrypted because terrorists and bad guys also can listen in on police movements.

That’s “security theater.” There is little demonstrable evidence of open channels being a problem. And it is demonstrable that citizens and the news media are now unable to hear real-time public safety information.

“What happens is, we don’t know what’s going on,” one television editor in the District told The Notebook. “We are in the most powerful city in the world and we can’t hear anything. It’s quite a mess.”

Like it or not, the news media are part of the citizens’ eyes and ears on what’s happening in our communities. Maybe some gutsy news managers somewhere or citizens’ groups will test this blackout in court. Maybe here in the District, the mayor and the D.C. Council will take a second look at this loss of information and its effect on the citizens’ right to know.


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

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<![CDATA[GOP Congressman Slams Obama for "Deportable" SOTU Guest]]> Tue, 20 Jan 2015 20:52:56 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/AP060731031104.jpg

A Republican congressman took a social media swipe at the White House over one of its young State of the Union guests Tuesday, tweeting that the first lady would have a "deportable" joining her.

Iowa Rep. Steve King said the president "perverts 'prosecutorial discretion'" by inviting Ana Zamora, a 20-year-old student from Dallas, to sit "in a place of honor" with first lady Michelle Obama during Tuesday's address.

Zamora, who was brought to the United States illegally as a young child, was granted temporary work authorization under Obama's executive order seeking to protect undocumented children living in the U.S. under such circumstances, often referred to as "DREAMers." The White House has said that Zamora's parents, a small business owner and a construction worker, are expected to benefit from more recent actions meant to shield millions from deportation.

When asked about the tweet by NBC News' Luke Russert, King, a vocal critic of Obama's immigration policies and actions, said to  "shake it off and have a sense of humor." The conservative congressman, who is hosting a gathering of potential GOP presidential candidates in this home state this weekend, said he didn't think the comment would hurt his party's possible 2016 contenders.

Zamora is one of nearly two dozen guests invited to watch the State of the Union along with the first lady. Others include a teen from Chicago's South Side who wrote a letter asking Santa for safety for Christmas, an astronaut set to spend a year aboard the International Space Station and Alan Gross, a U.S. citizen recently released after five years in Cuban prison.



Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS
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<![CDATA[Preparing for Hogan's Inauguration in Maryland]]> Wed, 21 Jan 2015 05:12:01 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000009205876_1200x675_386832451677.jpg Maryland Governor-elect Larry Hogan says Wednesday's Inauguration will go on outside the State House, rain or shine. News4's Chris Gordon reports.]]> <![CDATA[State of the Union Preview]]> Tue, 20 Jan 2015 16:57:17 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/465693763.jpg Mark Murray on President Obama's increased poll numbers and what he is likely to discuss during tonight's State of the Union address.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Christopher Barry to Turn Himself in Over Outburst at Bank]]> Tue, 20 Jan 2015 15:51:45 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/216*120/0119-barry.jpg

The son of the late Marion Barry is expected to turn himself Wednesday to face charges stemming from an angry outburst at a local bank.

Marion Christopher Barry, who is a candidate in the special election to fill his father's unexpired term, faces misdemeanor charges of making a threat and destruction of property, according to lawyers handling the issue for Barry.

Last week, Christopher Barry cursed a PNC bank teller on 7th Street downtown during a dispute over his account and said he would "have somebody waiting for you when you get off work," according to a police report.

The police report said Barry threw a trash can over the security glass, destroying a security camera valued at $1,000. The incident was captured on security cameras.

Lawyers said Monday Barry was expected to turn himself in Tuesday or Wednesday.

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<![CDATA[Va. Lawmakers to Discuss Drug Overdose Good Samaritan Bill]]> Mon, 19 Jan 2015 21:34:12 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Heroingeneric_722x406_2169976679.jpg

The Virginia attorney general and a Fairfax County father are coming together to urge lawmakers to attack the growing epidemic of heroin and opioid drug overdoses.

One proposal would offer limited criminal immunity to someone who is with a person during an overdose. The "safe reporting" or Good Samaritan provision would mean that person could for help without fear of arrest.

"This safe reporting law would encourage them to pick up the phone and call for help," explained Attorney General Herring. "The goal of these bills is to save lives."

Herring said the 2013 death of Fairfax County teen Emylee Lonczak underscored the need for the measure. Lonczak's body was found in a wooded area after she got a fatal overdose of heroin. The young men she was with knew she was in distress and never called for help.

Harring added he wants to expand a pilot program to allow law enforcement officers to give Naloxone to those suffering from an overdose. The antitode counters the potential deadly effects of drugs.

Another bill would take aim at drug dealers who sell heroin and other opioids that kill. It would strengthen the Commonwealth's laws and make the crime a felony homicide.

Don Flattery's 26-year-old son Kevin died five months ago following an opioid overdose. Since his death, Flattery has served on a task force that confronted the troubling numbers; 800 Virginians died of drug overdoses in 2012, while heroin overdoses jumped 164 percent in a 2-year time period.

"I believe they will have an immediate impact in saving lives and in removing predatory drug dealers from the streets," Flattery said. 

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<![CDATA[Va. Gov. Suffers 7 Broken Ribs in Fall From Horse]]> Mon, 19 Jan 2015 18:09:49 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/0115-mcauliffe.jpg

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe is recovering from injuries he received after being thrown from a horse while on a family trip to Africa, several media outlets are reporting.

McAuliffe is being treated for seven broken ribs at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.

Spokesman Brian Coy says the governor was with his family in Tanzania over the Christmas holidays when the riding accident occurred.

The governor had been working since his return from Africa and expected the injury to heal on its own, but Coy said doctors identified increased fluid around his lungs that required treatment.

The governor is expected to spend two to three days recovering.

"My husband is resting comfortably after a successful procedure this afternoon. He and I want to thank the outstanding medical team at VCU Medical Center who just informed us that he is expected to recover well and get back to his full schedule within the next few days," Virginia First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe said Monday. "We would also like to thank the many well-wishers from all across Virginia who expressed concern and support for Terry as he continues to recover."

Coy stressed that the injury is not a "dire thing'' and the governor has been on the job since the accident. That includes delivering the State of the Commonwealth last week.
 


 

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<![CDATA[State of the Union: What To Expect]]> Mon, 19 Jan 2015 11:31:05 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/NC_sotupreview0119001_1500x845.jpg President Obama's upcoming State of The Union address is already being met by Republican criticism.]]>