The Washington Times - January 11, 2012, 08:15AM

The Virginia General Assembly convenes today to take up initiatives that would plug money into the state’s retirement system, its schools and its crumbling infrastructure while considering Republican-backed measures to streamline government and strengthen personal property laws. But legislators first must hash out how the assembly is going to be organized, reports David Sherfinski of The Washington Times.

There is a “strong likelihood” that part of Virginia’s ballot access requirements will be ruled unconstitutional, a federal judge said Tuesday, handing a preliminary victory to Texas Gov. Rick Perry and other GOP presidential candidates trying to get onto the state’s March 6 primary ballot. The candidates are contesting the rule that petition circulators must be Virginia residents, according to The Times.


Rep. Darrell E. Issa, the Republican chairman of a powerful House oversight committee, on Tuesday told the secretary of the interior that the National Park Service has been “unresponsive” to his questions regarding Occupy D.C.’s extended stay in McPherson Square despite getting a deadline extension and that he might consider “compulsory processes” to get answers, The Times reports.

First lady Michelle Obama will be at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond today to announce a commitment from roughly 100 medical schools to improve training and research for the treatment of veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health injuries. The initiative is part of Mrs. Obama’s Joining Forces campaign, which focuses on issues affecting veterans and their families, according to the Associated Press.

Metro plans to hire more than 1,000 employees under a budget proposed by General Manager Richard Sarles for the next fiscal year that would also raise bus and rail fares as well as parking rates. The agency does not have an estimate of how much the new positions would cost in salaries and benefits. The hires would increase the total number of Metro employees by almost 9 percent, from 11,319 to 12,332. The new employees would include track maintenance workers, police officers and crews to work on the upcoming Silver Line, according to The Washington Post.

Opening statements in the trial of Lee Edward Stephens, one of two prisoners charged with stabbing corrections officer David McGuinn to death in 2006, are scheduled to take place today in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court. This is the first death penalty case to go to trial since Maryland’s death penalty law was changed. The law now reserves capital punishment for murders in which there is a videotaped confession or biological evidence linking the defendant to the crime, according to the Associated Press.

As the annual Maryland Democratic Party luncheon before the legislative session broke up Tuesday, state Sen. Anthony Muse loudly protested the endorsement of incumbent Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin by Gov. Martin O’Malley and Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, the House minority whip. “We don’t use this kind of venue to endorse one Democrat over another,” Mr. Muse said. “This violates our own rules of the Democratic Party.” Mr. Muse said this treatment was typical of the way party bosses had treated other blacks who have challenged the white establishment, according to the Maryland Reporter.