Morning Roundup: Dec. 21

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The D.C. Council passed sweeping ethics legislation on Tuesday for the first time in decades in an attempt to restore faith in city hall after a series of stumbles that ranged from questionable personnel decisions to more serious actions that prompted ongoing criminal probes. The council’s approval of the bill on a 12-1 vote, as the U.S. attorney’s office continues to look into reports of misdeeds by elected officials or their campaign teams, reports Tom Howell Jr. of The Washington Times.

A federal court heard testimony Tuesday in a lawsuit over whether Maryland’s new congressional map illegally dilutes the influence of black voters. Attorneys for a group of nine voters argued before a three-judge panel that officials in the Democrat-dominated state willfully split up black communities to spread their voters among several districts. They also argued the move deprived the state — which is 29 percent black — of a third majority-black district, reports David Hill of The Times.

Virginia Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, facing a challenge from the right in state Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, finds himself banking on a strong performance from Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney — with whom conservatives are not exactly enamored — to give him a boost for the 2013 GOP gubernatorial nomination, reports David Sherfinski of The Times.

Metro will inspect the brakes on all of its 5000-series rail cars — about 18 percent of its fleet — after a part fell off a moving train outside L’Enfant Plaza on Tuesday, damaged two more trains, and shut down service along the heart of the Orange and Blue lines for hours. Adjacent stations filled with smoke, and hundreds of passengers had to be evacuated after the incident, which occurred about 9:45 a.m. Metro officials said no major injuries were reported. Metro General Manager Richard Sarles said it would be premature to guess why the “friction ring,” similar to a brake disc on a vehicle, became disconnected, according to The Washington Post.

Prince George’s County police on Tuesday found a 2-year-old girl left alone in a Capitol Heights apartment. Cpl. Larry Johnson says authorities received a call about 12:30 p.m. Tuesday from the child’s mother, who was in a hospital and unable to reach the child’s father. Cpl. Johnson says officers found the girl in a bedroom unattended for several hours and “extremely hungry” but unharmed. The child’s father was arrested but had not been charged as of late last night, according to the Associated Press.

Montgomery County police have solved fewer than a quarter of the robberies that occurred in the last fiscal year, the county’s worst closure rate in five years, new data show. In fiscal 2011, 824 robberies occurred, but the police only closed 201, or 24 percent of them, the Washington Examiner reports.

Former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, is calling $81 million in “cuts” to the Virginia Preschool Initiative as proposed by Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, in his two-year budget plan “fiscally unwise.” As governor, Mr. Kaine championed the program that offers public preschool classes to at-risk 4-year-old children in the commonwealth. He said the cuts will hurt Virginia families and the state in the long run, according to the Daily Press.

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