- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 12, 2004

The president of Republicans United for Tax Relief — James Parmelee — said he is confident that anti-tax Republicans will succeed in future Virginia elections and pointed to what he considers a recent victory.

Delegate Thelma Drake, Norfolk Republican, who opposed the $1.38 billion tax-increase plan passed in May, was named late last month as the nominee for the 2nd Congressional District. Mrs. Drake replaces Rep. Ed Schrock, Virginia Republican, who dropped out of his re-election race.

State Sen. Kenneth W. Stolle, Virginia Beach Republican, who has more seniority than Mrs. Drake, wanted to be considered, but withdrew before Mrs. Drake was named.

Mr. Parmelee calls this “the first primary of 2005,” because Mr. Stolle championed a much larger tax increase than the one that ultimately passed the legislature.

“We won,” he said. “If Stolle hadn’t been pushing for multibillion-dollar tax hikes, he would probably be our nominee today for Congress in a safe Republican district.”

• Clean slate

Federal investigators, finding no evidence of wrongdoing, have ended a preliminary inquiry into Maryland state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr.’s slots-related fund-raising activities.

The federal probe focused on $225,000 in contributions that racetrack owner Joseph De Francis, president of the Maryland Jockey Club, gave to the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee in three installments in 2002 and early 2003.

Mr. Miller, Prince George’s County Democrat and the campaign committee’s chairman, solicited money from Mr. De Francis during visits to the Laurel Park racetrack.

“It was alleged in published reports that the contributions were made in an effort to influence your client to provide support of pending legislation permitting slot machines in Maryland racetracks,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Kevin L. Perkins wrote to Mr. Miller’s attorney Thursday.

“The FBI’s investigation into this matter did not identify evidence of illegal activity related to these two donations. Based on the results of the investigation, I directed, with the concurrence of the United States Attorney, that our case be closed.”

Mr. Miller said Thursday: “Now that the federal government has concluded … that there was no misconduct on my part, I am looking forward to putting this matter behind me and focusing upon my passion of serving the public and the Democratic Party to the best of my ability.”

The decision was similar to those by the Maryland state prosecutor and the legislature’s joint committee on ethics, which concluded there was no evidence that the donations were meant to influence legislation before the General Assembly.

• Cheap drugs

The push to buy cheaper prescription drugs from Canada returns to the front burner this week.

The Montgomery County Council has been looking at whether it can go north of the border to save money on medications for county workers and retirees.

Today, some members plan to trot out a man who has been there and done that.

A former mayor of Springfield, Mass., will tell how his city manages to buy drugs from Canada without any problems.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration generally opposes the imports, saying it can’t vouch for their safety.

• Battleground?

Virginia is no longer among the battleground states that Democrat Sen. John Kerry is targeting for television advertising despite his campaign’s summertime claim that the state where no Democrat has won a presidential race in 40 years would be competitive.

Republican-leaning Virginia is not among 14 states where Mr. Kerry’s campaign will focus its paid advertising before the Nov. 2 election. Nor is the commonwealth among 20 states where Mr. Kerry has reserved — but not yet paid for — television time in the campaign’s closing month.

Mr. Kerry’s senior political strategist, Tad Devine, denied Thursday that the campaign has written off Virginia to shift its money to more competitive states. He noted a paid campaign staff of about two dozen people in the state and recent visits by Mr. Kerry, his running mate, Sen. John Edwards, and their immediate families.

Mr. Edwards’ wife, Elizabeth, campaigned in Richmond and Northern Virginia on Wednesday, and the candidates themselves visited Virginia five times from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

“I believe that Virginia is a place we can win, but our commitment to it in terms of the resource allocation, I think, must be tempered by where the state is [based on] contemporary research,” Mr. Devine said in a conference call with reporters from several Southern states.

To Republicans, however, it’s “a very clear indication that the Kerry campaign has pulled up stakes,” said Ken Hutcheson, who is President Bush’s Virginia campaign director.

“You put your money where your mouth is,” said Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore, the state chairman of the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign.

• ‘Shine a light’

Maryland state Sen. Brian Frosh urged newspaper publishers and editors on Friday to “shine a light” on the horrors going on in the cells and corridors of Maryland’s juvenile prisons.

State lawmakers approved legislation this year, engineered by Mr. Frosh, that is designed to shrink the inmate populations at Charles H. Hickey Jr. School in Baltimore and the Cheltenham Youth Facility in Prince George’s County. Both were subjects of a scathing report by the federal Justice Department in April.

But more needs to be done to guarantee the safety of the state’s juvenile inmates, whose plight was detailed in the 50-page report, Mr. Frosh told an annual conference of the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association.

“You’re in a unique position to shine a light on this. It’s critically important,” said Mr. Frosh, a Montgomery County Democrat who heads the Senate’s Judicial Proceedings Committee. “We’re wasting time and money, and, more importantly, we’re wasting lives.”

Lawmakers dole out money to the Department of Juvenile Services, but they have little power over how the agency spends its money, Mr. Frosh said.

Administrators might be pressed to take more action if newspapers devote more high-profile coverage to the reputed abuses.

• Noises off

Officials in Carroll County, Md., are planning to hold a series of public hearings on a proposed noise ordinance.

It arose from complaints about noise from all-terrain vehicles and dirt bikes.

The proposal sets limits on the length and loudness of noises, measured in decibels.

Violations could result in fines of up to $250 for a first offense, and up to $1,000 for a third offense in less than a year.

The proposal includes exceptions for emergency sirens, agricultural vehicles, trains and entertainment events — among others.

• Recalling the vote

City Council members in Salisbury, Md., are considering changes to the city charter that would make it more difficult for residents to force recall elections for city offices.

At an upcoming meeting, the council will hold the first reading of a charter change that would require petitioners to be city residents. Another change would put a 90-day time limit on recall petition drives.

Both proposals, already agreed to by council members, are a response to a highly publicized recall petition drive that began nearly two years ago.

The drive to oust the mayor and council members was organized by Brenda Cox, who lives in Wicomico County and formerly owned a Salisbury service station.

Her drive continued for about a year before she suspended it. Under the current law, there is no time limit for petition drives. The proposed bill is not retroactive, said city attorney Paul Wilber.

“That means that Mrs. Cox’s petition drive will live on,” he said Tuesday. “But, I think if someone tried to restart it now, it would be challenged.”

Miss Cox aimed to remove council members Michael Day, Rachel Polk, Joseph Scott, Lavonzella Siggers and C.T. Webster, along with Mayor Barrie Parsons Tilghman.

She said constant arguing among the city officials was counterproductive.

The petition drive was inactive for several months, but was started again after the 2003 election.

This time, it aimed at removing Mr. Day, Miss Siggers and Mrs. Tilghman. Miss Polk was not re-elected. Mr. Webster died before the primary election, and Mr. Scott did not seek another term. The drive hasn’t been restarted.

• Teacher’s pet topic

Virginia Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore was back in the classroom last week.

The state’s top lawyer spent part of Thursday afternoon at Manassas Park Middle School, where he talked to students about gangs.

Mr. Kilgore, a Republican, has revived the Class Action Program he started as secretary of public safety in then-Gov. George F. Allen’s administration.

The program sends law enforcement officials into classrooms to teach children about personal responsibility and the consequences of breaking the law.

Mr. Kilgore wants to use the program in elementary and middle schools to help discourage young people from joining gangs.

About 200 law-enforcement officers across the commonwealth have been trained to present the class.

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

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