City State: Morning Roundup

A lawsuit filed over congressional redistricting in Virginia suggests likely partisan sniping in the state’s upcoming General Assembly session, with Democrats already contesting Republican claims to a Senate majority. The lawsuit, filed last week in U.S. District Court for the Eastern Division of Virginia in Alexandria, calls for a three-judge panel to draw new lines for Virginia’s 11 congressional districts, as state House and Senate leaders remain deadlocked over the issue, according to The Washington Times.

D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser has introduced her widely anticipated ethics-reform bill, which creates a three-member oversight body and makes drastic changes to council members’ controversial constituent services fund. The proposed legislation by Ms. Bowser — Ward 4 Democrat and chairwoman of the Committee on Government Operations — takes ideas from 10 ethics bills and attempts to be the starting point for restoring public faith in city lawmakers after two years of political scandal, The Times reports.

The Maryland agency responsible for inspecting health-care facilities failed last year to conduct annual, mandatory checks at more than half of the state’s assisted-living homes, according to a new audit. The audit by the Office of Legislative Audits found Maryland’s Office of Health Care Quality (OHCQ) failed in fiscal 2010 to perform inspections at 53 percent of the facilities and failed to inspect more than 75 percent of care providers for the developmentally disabled, The Times reports.

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray, Democrat, is shaking up his administration by hiring two congressional staffers to lead his communications and to help oversee his executive office, according to several sources on the mayor’s staff. Pedro Ribeiro, a spokesman for Rep. Zoe Lofgren, California Democrat, will be the new director of communications while Sheila Bunn, chief of staff to D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, will be Mr. Gray’s new deputy chief of staff, according to The Washington Post.

Virginia’s criminal-background-check system for firearm purchases, the first of its kind in the nation, is being targeted for elimination. Gun-rights advocates have lobbied Gov. Bob McDonnell to scrap the program, arguing that it is redundant because a federal background check system can replace it. Gun-control groups say doing so would take a valuable law enforcement tool away from Virginia State Police and undermine state gun laws, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Maryland health officials have revoked 157 nursing assistants’ certificates after learning that a state employee awarded the medical documents to people who didn’t apply or didn’t meet minimum standards. The Washington Examiner reports that the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s inspector general concluded in 2009 that an employee fraudulently issued 19 nursing certificates, but the new findings show more than eight times as many faulty certificates had been issued. The employee has been fired.

The Baltimore Sun editorial board opines that, if nothing else, state Comptroller Peter Franchot’s objection to Bowie State University’s purchase of 32 new Steinway pianos for its $79 million new performing arts center shows the state’s top financial watchdog has a tin ear for value. Who would spend that kind of money on a state-of-the-art music facility and then fill it with penny-whistle instruments?, they ask, according to the Maryland Reporter.

Prince George’s County police are asking the public’s help in finding a suspect in an Edmonston slaying they say was released after he was mistakenly granted bail. Frederick Scott, 24, of Chillum, has been charged with murder in the March shooting death of Phillip Watson, 30, of the District. Mr. Scott was arrested in May in Las Vegas and was extradited to Maryland, where he was held on a no bond status. But police say a clerical error led to Mr. Scott being granted bond and released earlier this month. The court issued a bench warrant for Mr. Scott on Friday after the mistake was noticed, according to the Associated Press.

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