The Washington Times - November 15, 2011, 07:03AM

Proposal offers D.C. budget autonomy; O’Malley backing gas-tax hike among several tough sells; Virginia has flawed methods for evaluating sex offenders; Montgomery County’s top attorney: Loitering bill likely unconstitutional; Fairfax County schools voting on indoor cameras; O’Malley administration to outline historic India trip; Gang memberships soars in Prince George’s County; Univ. of Maryland could cut eight varsity programs; Two Republicans running for D.C. at-large seat; Columbia allowing female-only swimming.

A proposal by House GOP Rep. Darrell Issa puts Washington, D.C., closer to greater budget autonomy, but it comes at a price. The draft legislation would allow the District to use its own funds immediately after the city government approves its budget. However, no D.C. funds can be used for abortions, except in cases where the life of the mother would be endangered, or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, the draft bill says, according to The Washington Times.


Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s expected push for a gas-tax increase during the 2012 General Assembly is already facing stiff opposition, but the proposal is just one of several likely tough sells in his legislative agenda for next year. Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat, readily acknowledges the unpopularity of a proposed 15-cents-a-gallon tax hike during a prolonged economic downturn. While the governor has yet to say outright that he will sponsor such an increase when the assembly convenes in January, he is taking the lead on legalizing same-sex marriage, which failed last year, and a jobs package based largely on increasing infrastructure spending, The Times reports.

A Republican-led effort to allow Illinois residents to carry concealed weapons by obtaining a permit in another state — loosening D.C. gun laws in the process — did not pass a final hurdle on Monday night before major gun legislation reached the House floor, The Times reports.

Virginia’s system for assessing which sexually violent offenders should be sent to a state-funded rehabilitation program is fundamentally flawed and has contributed to costs nearly 10 times higher than just seven years ago, according to a report released Monday by the General Assembly’s investigative arm, The Times reports.

Montgomery County’s top attorney said Monday that an anti-loitering bill proposed as an alternative to a youth curfew pushed by County Executive Ike Leggett is probably unconstitutional. County Attorney Marc Hansen said the legislation “vests a police officer with virtually unfettered discretion to determine whether a person is committing the crime of loitering and prowling.” If passed, he said, the Maryland Court of Appeals likely would strike it down because the bill limits the “otherwise constitutionally protected right of a person to move about in a public place,” according to The Washington Examiner.

Fairfax County school officials say they will decide whether to install indoor surveillance cameras by the end of the year. The school board will take up the issue on Dec. 1 or at its last meeting on Dec. 15. If the measure passes, high schools would be allowed to install cameras in cafeterias and other campus hotspots, as a safety measure. All other area school districts except Arlington County allow in-school surveillance. Fairfax County currently allows outside cameras, according to the Associated Press.

The O’Malley administration is scheduled Tuesday to outline details about the governor’s trade mission this month to India. It’s being described as the largest trade mission conducted by a Maryland governor in the state’s history with roughly 100 people attending, including business representatives who will be paying their own way. It will be Mr. O’Malley’s second trade mission as governor. He went to China, South Korea and Vietnam in June, AP reports.

Prince George’s County has the fifth-largest gang membership on the East Coast, with the number of members more than doubling since 2008, according to a new FBI report. With 7,131 known gang members, Prince George’s ranked behind Miami-Dade County and three counties in the Newark, N.J., area — Essex, Hudson and Union counties — according to The Examiner.

The University of Maryland’s President’s Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics recommended the school cut eight of the school’s 27 varsity sports, effective July 1, as part of a series of recommendations released Monday night. A source said last week that the Terrapins’ women’s water polo and men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams were informed they were expected to be dropped. The commission included those three teams, as well as acrobatics and tumbling (formerly competitive cheerleading), men’s tennis and the men’s cross-country and indoor and outdoor track and field programs, according to The Times.

Two D.C. Republicans say they plan to enter the race for an at-large seat on the City Council, setting up a rare GOP primary for April. Mary Brooks Beatty and Timothy Day announced their intentions to enter the at-large race Tuesday, the first day ballot petitions can be circulated for the April 3 primary. Both are former advisory neighborhood commissioners — Ms. Beatty in Hill East; Mr. Day in Brookland, according to The Post.

The Columbia Association, which operates 23 pools in Howard County, has created a twice-weekly, women-only swim time. The trial program is scheduled to be announced Tuesday, following a request from Dar Al-Taqwa mosque in Ellicott City and members of the faith-based group People Acting Together in Howard. The association will join other communities that have made similar accommodations to create a more welcoming atmosphere for Muslims and other female swimmers. New York City’s recreation and parks department offers a women-only swim time, and George Washington University also have provided female-only swim times. But occasionally, such programs have run into opponents who suggest they unfairly cater to one group, according to The Baltimore Sun.