Morning Roundup: June 30

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Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, after spending a campaign defending socially conservative views that some feared might alienate independent voters and failing to win General Assembly support on two of his major initiatives, nevertheless has scored notable bipartisan victories and emerged by some accounts as Virginia’s most popular statewide political figure. Bolstered by complimentary poll numbers, Paige Winfield Cunningham in The Washington Times shows how a candidate feared to be an ideologue has turned into a governor who’s a pragmatist. “He hasn’t been as ideologically potent as he was as a delegate, but I don’t think he’s tried to be,” said Bob Gibson, executive director of the Sorenson Institute for Political Leadership at the University of Virginia. “He’s largely confined his initiatives to what is possible.”

The D.C. Lottery’s plan to introduce unprecedented online gambling in the District is legal as long as play occurs within city borders, Tom Howell Jr. reports in The Washington Times. Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan said the measure complies with federal laws and may proceed toward its September launch date with “continual and close monitoring.” But that doesn’t mean D.C. Council members don’t have their concerns, particularly over network security, the wisdom of wagering dollars with the click of a mouse and the placement of gaming “hot spots” in the community. They say the plan could still face implementation delays.

Even as the ACLU Maryland chapter was filing a challenge to e-signatures collected on a petition to repeal the Dream Act, the ACLU Utah chapter was filing a lawsuit to defend e-signatures, David Hill reports in The Washington Times. The difference? The group said the site used by Dream Act opponents, mdpetitions.com, violates state petition laws by using online voter records to automatically fill in residents’ names, dates of birth and ZIP codes. The site also allows residents to download and circulate their own copy of the petition. But the Maryland ACLU has also argued that the system is subject to fraud — a stance that contradicts that of the ACLU of Utah, which in March sued its state to allow online “e-signatures” in place of handwritten signatures.

The D.C. fire department is considering increasing the number of days an employee can work a light-duty assignment after complaints from pregnant firefighters that the 30 days now offered keeps them in physically demanding positions too far into their pregnancies. The policy change would offer 90 days rather than 30 days of limited-duty assignments to all sick, injured or pregnant firefighters and paramedics. It is a turnabout for Chief Kenneth Ellerbe, who says overtime concerns make him reluctant to overrule the unpopular policy he put in place in March.

The District’s budget situation is still in flux, with Mayor Vincent C. Gray now pledging to set aside funds for additional police officers, The Washington Post reports. After much last-minute council scrambling over any additional funds that enter city coffers, Mr. Gray has also declared he will fund a nursing program in a “modified budget” to be submitted to the council later this week. The problem? That could set off a whole new round of debates about budget priorities among council members already skeptical of more than $30 million Mr. Gray says is urgently needed to pay underfunded Medicaid providers.

So when is a 3-cent tax increase not a 3-cent tax increase? When it’s on liquor. And when it’s collected by bartenders who simply don’t deal in pennies, the Baltimore Sun reports. That’s why 3-cent-per-dollar tax increases could be double that in real money. “If you are tending bar, and it is a Saturday night, you can’t make change,” explained Andrew Burke, the owner of John Steven Ltd., a bar in Baltimore’s Fells Point neighborhood. “The guy at the bar isn’t going to count out 86 cents while three more people are waiting for a drink.”

Thursday marks the end of an era, as loooongtime Maryland schools chief and all-around political survivor Nancy Grasmick retires. The Baltimore Sun has the details on her last day and her farewell party.

Drivers in the District overwhelmingly support the use of red light cameras, according to a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and reported by WTOP Radio.

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