- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 22, 2004

In the midst of important legislative business as the Virginia General Assembly gets down to crunch time on the state budget, lawmakers are spending some of their time criticizing the Super Bowl halftime show, in which performer Justin Timberlake tore off part of Janet Jackson’s costume, revealing her right breast.

Delegate Albert C. Pollard Jr., Lancaster County Democrat, put in a resolution last week denouncing CBS and Miss Jackson for the show.

“If we own the public airwaves, we have the ability to set the standards of taste and decency,” Mr. Pollard said, noting that the show was “not in the spirit of family television.” But Delegate Lionel Spruill Sr., Chesapeake Democrat, said the resolution was racist, and asked why white performers didn’t get the same scrutiny.

“People have beat up on Janet Jackson enough,” said Mr. Spruill, who is black. “I question the gentleman who put it in: Why didn’t he put some stuff in when Madonna was kissing Britney Spears? I see a racist tone,” Mr. Spruill said. “In 2004, what has a halftime show with Janet Jackson got to do with what we’re doing in this place right now?”

This wasn’t the first time the show drew criticism from state lawmakers.

The day after the Super Bowl, state Sen. Jay O’Brien read his fellow senators an angry letter he sent to NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

“You gave us a burlesque show not worthy or appropriate for family viewing,” Mr. O’Brien said.

mNo sugar

Another colorful moment came last week when the Virginia House passed a bill authored by Delegate William R. Janis, Goochland County Republican, that exempts companies that sell sugary foods from liability claims. It also says products with open or obvious dangers, including those relating to alcohol, tobacco or firearms, are exempted from liability in the case of voluntary use.

But Delegate Robert D. Hull, Fairfax County Democrat, said targeting sweets made with sugar, butter or hydrogenated oils was a bad thing.

“I’m a Little Debbie lover,” he said on the House floor, quickly clarifying he was talking about the snack cakes once the delegates erupted in laughter.

Mr. Hull kept the joke up all week, and on Wednesday passed a package of Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies to Mr. Janis. He also gave a detailed history of the Little Debbie company, named for the founder’s granddaughter.

“Listed as the top ingredient is sugar, the very item we said might be hazardous,” Mr. Hull announced, giving the cakes to Mr. Janis as a “show of bipartisanship.”

mLet voters decide?

At least some Maryland lawmakers are talking about a possible compromise in the slots debate — one that would let the voters decide the issue in November.

Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, Anne Arundel County Democrat, said last week that voters should have a say on a major public-policy change. He pointed out that a similar referendum created the state lottery in the 1970s.

To get on the fall ballot, a referendum proposal would need a three-fifths vote in both houses of the General Assembly.

mStudents rule

Four College of William & Mary students seeking to run for open seats on the Williamsburg City Council have run up against voter-registration rules that could keep them off the ballot.

Williamsburg’s registrar is attempting to determine which students may vote by giving detailed surveys to dorm residents who apply for registration.

The State Board of Elections gives localities discretion to decide residency.

“It’s been a gray area in the five years I’ve been here,” said Registrar Wythe Davis, adding that not many students have tried to register. “I could tell that it was getting to be a matter of interest.”

Sophomore Seth Saunders said he wants to run in the city’s May elections in part to bridge what he sees as a divide between the city and college.

“It may be naive, but I truly believe in democracy at its most elementary level — that the people at the local level make it work. I’ve fallen in love with Williamsburg, and I want to be a part of making it better,” he said.

But Mr. Saunders said the city denied his voter-registration application because his father in Hanover County lists him as a dependent and because his car is registered in Tappahannock, where his mother lives.

He plans to appeal the decision.

Dave Andrews, the city’s assistant voter registrar, said none of the four students is registered to vote in Williamsburg, and none has submitted the paperwork needed to run.

Kent Willis, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, said students can be perceived as a threat in small college towns.

Williamsburg has a population of 12,000, including the roughly 5,500 undergraduate students at William & Mary.

mUnder my umbrella

Nearly five months after she was suspended for sharing her umbrella with a county supervisor and failing to report it, Alleghany County, Va., employee Julie Brackenridge has had her record cleared.

The general accounting clerk received back pay for the three days and two hours she was suspended.

Earlier this month, County Administrator Tammy Stephenson wiped Miss Brackenridge’s personnel file clean of the incident and apologized to her as well.

Miss Brackenridge was suspended in September after she walked county Supervisor Sam Wilhelm to his car, then failed to tell Miss Stephenson about it.

Miss Stephenson called Miss Brackenridge to her office to confront her about the incident, then suspended her after Miss Brackenridge stormed out and slammed the office door.

At a meeting of the supervisors in October, Miss Stephenson said a policy requiring employees to report conversations with supervisors to the county administrator was unwritten, but had been practiced for years. Supervisors later voted to do away with the policy.

mCheney to visit

Vice President Dick Cheney will visit Hagerstown, Md., this week to help Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett’s re-election campaign.

Mr. Cheney will speak at a breakfast fund-raiser Friday at the Venice Inn, Mr. Bartlett’s campaign manager, Sallie Taylor, announced last week. She said the campaign has sent out 7,000 invitations seeking contributions of $100 to $1,000 a plate. The room can hold about 800, she said.

Mr. Bartlett, a Republican who represents Western Maryland, is running for his seventh consecutive term. He faces a primary challenge March 2 from Frederick County State’s Attorney Scott Rolle.

Seven Democrats and one Green Party candidate also are seeking the 6th Congressional District seat.

Christina Bellantoni contributed to this column, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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