The Washington Times - January 9, 2012, 08:31AM

Virginia legislators will face no shortage of big-ticket budget battles when the General Assembly convenes Wednesday, with such perennially contested items as K-12 education and transportation topping the list. Yet the session also is expected to include an equally tough fight to increase mental health funding in Gov. Bob McDonnell’s proposed two-year, $85 billion spending plan, reports David Sherfinski of The Washington Times.

Republican George Allen and Democrat Tim Kaine, the candidates likely to meet in the U.S. Senate race in Virginia, are advancing dueling messages on how to lure and keep jobs in the state, with economic issues at the front of Virginians’ minds, according to The Washington Post.


Metro is months behind on a plan to fight suicides on its system, even as more riders try to kill themselves by jumping in front of trains. Two more were struck just last week, according to the Washington Examiner.

Restaurants in and around Washington are offering special meal deals this week. Today is the start of the area’s Restaurant Week, where multicourse meals at participating restaurants cost $20.12 for lunch and $35.12 for dinner. More than 200 area restaurants are offering the special meal deals through Sunday, according to the Associated Press.

Democratic leaders in Annapolis have compiled a “to do” list for the next three months that includes raising taxes and changing the definition of marriage. Some also want to close off big chunks of Maryland to development and open even more casinos in the state. Any one of these proposals would be off-putting to many lawmakers in most years; indeed, some ideas have been passed along like a plate of limp vegetables from one session to the next. But during the 90-day session that begins Wednesday, pressure from many different directions is expected to spur the governor and General Assembly to take action, according to the Baltimore Sun.

Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller has named a special committee to review the state’s ethics laws that apply to legislators and other state and local officials and make recommendations for reforms that could be voted on as early as this year. Mr. Miller, Anne Arundel Democrat, announced Friday that he had appointed Sen. Jamie Raskin, a persistent ethics advocate, to be chairman the seven-member panel, The Sun reports.

Eric Wargotz, a Maryland Republican who ran an unsuccessful campaign against Democratic Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski in 2010, said Saturday he wants to take a “second look” at running for Senate this year now that state Sen. C. Anthony Muse is in the race. Earlier this year, Mr. Wargotz considered running against Democratic Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin but announced in November he would not seek the seat. Now he says that Mr. Muse’s candidacy — announced Thursday — may provide an opportunity for a Republican candidate to be more competitive, The Sun reports.