- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 6, 2006

D.C. Council member David A. Catania has been learning about fashion the hard way.

“Everyone else here has a jacket, but as you can see, I have seersucker pants on and there is in every seersucker suit a label that says, ‘Do not dry,’ and I did not read the label,” Mr. Catania told a room full of reporters and city officials at D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams’ press conference last week.

“So I dried my jacket, so it’s simply a prop — and if I were to try to put it on, it will look like I gained 50 pounds in the last week.”

Mr. Catania, at-large independent and chairman of the Committee on Health, wore the jacket in question when he entered the press conference, but he quickly removed it.

Most of the other men in the room were wearing suit jackets, which was odd considering the sweltering temperatures outside.

“I want to encourage those who invest in seersucker suits to, by all means, read the label,” he said.

“When they say, ‘Do not dry,’ they are serious.”

Shortly after Mr. Catania’s apology, Mr. Williams took off the jacket he was wearing.

• Bill of rights

Several Montgomery County Council candidates last week rallied behind a “bill of rights” proposal that would create a living wage for immigrant and illegal alien domestic workers in the county.

Democratic contenders Duchy Trachtenberg, Cary Lamari and Valerie Ervin were among the candidates who attended a press conference Tuesday to present a George Washington University study on the abuses of domestic workers — nannies and housekeepers who are the female equivalent of predominantly male day laborers.

The study said at least half of all domestic workers in the county work more than 40 hours per week but earn less than Maryland’s $6.15 minimum wage.

The average domestic worker is an unmarried, high-school-educated Hispanic woman who works in Bethesda, Silver Spring, Rockville or Gaithersburg and does not speak English. Most live in constant fear of being deported, according to the new study.

County Council President George L. Leventhal, a Democrat, commissioned the study.

CASA of Maryland, an immigrant rights group that has sponsored several lawsuits on behalf of illegal alien workers, sponsored the conference.

The proposed bill calls for domestic workers in the county to earn a living wage of at least $10.50 per hour, overtime pay, health insurance, lunch breaks as well as paid vacation, holidays and sick leave.

It also would require employers to sign contracts with their immigrant and illegal alien employees.

CASA officials said they hope the candidates, if elected, will help push the legislation through the council next year.

• Withdrawn

A D.C. resident who had filed papers to put the issue of same-sex “marriage” before the city’s voters has withdrawn the initiative.

Lisa Greene of Ward 4 filed papers with the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics last Monday for a petition.

That filing said voters should define marriage as between one man and one woman and not leave it to the D.C. Council or judges.

However, Miss Greene sent a letter last week to the elections board announcing her intention to withdraw the initiative, titled the D.C. Marriage Amendment.

Miss Greene proposed a similar measure in 2004 but did not raise money or seek certification for the campaign.

• Push for minimum

Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley has asked President Bush to support an increase in the federal minimum wage and challenged his gubernatorial rival, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., to join his appeal.

But Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican who vetoed a bill that would increase the state minimum wage, dismissed Mr. O’Malley’s letter as “classic class warfare” on the part of the Democrat.

Mr. O’Malley’s letters were sent as the U.S. Senate worked on a bill passed by the House that would increase the federal minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour, phased in over three years.

Mr. O’Malley asked Mr. Bush to persuade Congress to take a vote on the minimum-wage issue without tying it to a cut in the estate tax.

Mr. Ehrlich said during an appearance in Baltimore last week that Mr. O’Malley should “spend more time worrying about the city of Baltimore.”

• On his way

A grandfather from Raleigh County, W.Va., faced sweltering temperatures and 366 miles of asphalt Wednesday as he began a one-man march to Washington to bring attention to Marsh Fork Elementary School.

Ed Wiley, 49, is part of a group that wants to close Marsh Fork, which is next door to a coal refuse pond and preparation plant, and build a new school elsewhere.

Mr. Wiley’s 11-year-old granddaughter recently graduated from Marsh Fork.

About two dozen supporters cheered Mr. Wiley as he kicked off his trek at the center fountain of the state Capitol Complex.

Clad in a white T-shirt, jeans, low-cut boots and a camouflage ball cap, Mr. Wiley said he expects to arrive in the nation’s capital by Sept. 12.

“It’s a very, very small sacrifice,” said Mr. Wiley, of Rock Creek. “It’s a very simple solution. Move this school away from the mining operation.”

Mr. Wiley and the Pennies of Promise project hope to raise money and awareness for their campaign to build a new school.

They say they will need $5 million and already have raised $7,000 for his walk.

The coal facilities are owned by Goals Coal Corp., a subsidiary of Massey Energy, based in Richmond.

• Garnering support

Montgomery County prosecutor Douglas F. Gansler, who is running for Maryland attorney general, is receiving support from two of Prince George’s County’s top political leaders — U.S. Rep. Albert R. Wynn and Prince George’s County Executive Jack B. Johnson.

The backing gives Mr. Gansler, a Democrat, important support from black leaders in Maryland’s largest Democratic jurisdiction.

Support from the two leaders could be a setback for the two other Democratic candidates seeking their party’s nomination to replace retiring Democratic incumbent J. Joseph Curran Jr.

Stuart O. Simms, a former Baltimore state’s attorney, is the only black candidate in the contest.

About half of the Montgomery County Council district of Tom Perez lies in Mr. Wynn’s congressional district.

A poll last month in the Baltimore Sun showed Mr. Simms in a statistical tie with Mr. Gansler among likely primary voters.

Mr. Simms had a 15 percent to 12 percent advantage that was within the survey’s 4.1 percentage point margin of error.

Two of three likely voters were undecided.

Last week, Mr. Wynn said he and Mr. Johnson think Mr. Gansler has the “work ethic, experience and commitment to do a great job as attorney general.”

Mr. Gansler said the endorsements reflect the diverse appeal of his candidacy.

Simms campaign chairman Larry Gibson downplayed the importance of the individual endorsements.

But he noted that Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Glenn Ivey, who is black, and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., who is white, are among elected officials with ties to the county who have endorsed Mr. Simms.

“If quantity of endorsements decides this, we feel very good; we have more to come,” Mr. Gibson said.

“Stu would like all endorsements, but he does not expect them to be unanimous,” he said.

• Big spending

The price of influence at the Virginia General Assembly continues to rise.

Interest groups spent a record $15.4 million on lobbying legislators during the past year, according to reports filed with the secretary of the commonwealth’s office.

The total, which amounts to $110,000 per lawmaker, broke the record of $13.6 million set in 2004.

The reports cover activities between May 1, 2005, and April 30, 2006, so any lobbying that continued in the ongoing special session is not included.

Those activities will be reflected in next year’s reports, said Chris Frink of the secretary of the commonwealth’s office.

Most of the money went toward lobbyists’ salaries, but there also were expenditures on golfing, international trips, catered receptions and dinners at high-dollar Richmond restaurants.

Although the disclosure statements are mandatory, interest groups are not required to provide detailed information.

For example, the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association said only that it spent $27,678 on entertainment and $555 on gifts.

Dominion Resources, on the other hand, gave a detailed list of whom it entertained. The company spent $161,172 on lobbying.

The Northern Virginia Technology Council, a trade association of computer-service companies, was the biggest spender.

Most of its $361,674 was spent on large breakfasts and dinners in Northern Virginia that are part of the organization’s regular activities. A “Titans of Technology” breakfast in McLean cost $15,422, for example.

Some organizations prefer large receptions, while others prefer more informal gatherings at restaurants.

The Virginia Association of Realtors, which beat back an attempt to tax real estate sales and opposed restrictive land-use controls, spent about $20,000 for food and drinks at a Feb. 15 reception at the Jefferson Hotel. About 135 people attended.

The organization also took out lawmakers to bistros such as Capital Ale House, Edo’s Squid and Old Original Bookbinder’s.

• Restoration

City officials in Annapolis know it will be expensive, but they are talking seriously about restoring the City Hall building.

The City Council last week voted to form a committee on the restoration.

The City Hall began as a one-story brick building when it opened in 1767.

It was used for balls and concerts, and it served as the home for the General Assembly from 1775 until 1780.

The front facade was redesigned after the Civil War and much of the building was rebuilt.

The last extensive renovation was in 1934.

A cornice collapse earlier this month raised concerns about safety and sparked the renewed interest in a restoration.

• A new review

Virginia Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell said last week that he has formed a 25-member task force to look for ways to streamline state regulations.

“Today is the start of a serious, long-term effort to reduce unnecessary and obsolete regulations in Virginia, and to limit the regulatory burden on Virginia businesses and citizens,” said Mr. McDonnell, a Republican.

The task force will be led by former state Delegate Jack Rust, a Northern Virginia lawyer.

Mr. Rust and several other task force members joined Mr. McDonnell at a press conference Wednesday to announce the initiative.

Mr. McDonnell also named three “working groups” that will advise the task force on regulations affecting agriculture, small business and health care.

Those groups swell the total number of people involved in the project to 62.

The goals of the review, Mr. McDonnell said, are to better involve citizens in their government and to ensure that state regulations do not unnecessarily hinder free enterprise or place undue costs on taxpayers and businesses.

• Amy Doolittle and Keyonna Summers contributed to this column, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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