- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Congress pressured on voting rights

A coalition of groups is urging Congress to support a bill for D.C. voting rights without an amendment that would repeal the city’s gun restrictions.

Ilir Zherka, executive director of the group DC Vote, said the organizations include the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Urban League, League of Women Voters and People for the American Way.

The bill would give the District its first full member of the House. The Senate passed the legislation last month with an amendment that would repeal most of the city’s strict gun-control laws. A vote in the House has been postponed while Democratic leaders strategize on how to move forward.

Mr. Zherka said Monday that it is not clear how soon the bill will come up for a vote. He said about 80 mostly conservative Democrats are being targeted by the groups to vote for an amendment-free bill.



Parties interested in hospital system

The chairman of the Prince George’s County Hospital Authority said there are nine parties interested in buying at least parts of the hospital system.

Kenneth Glover declined to reveal the names of the interested parties. He was in Annapolis on Monday to urge a legislative panel to support a bill that would allow the seven-member hospital authority to sell the hospital and four other county health facilities, piecemeal, if need be.

The bill also would provide some flexibility in where services could be relocated.

The health care system, owned by Prince George’s County and managed by a not-for-profit company, has lost money for years.



County moves on streetcar plans

The Arlington County Board has approved $3 million in funding for the planning and design of a 4.7-mile streetcar line connecting Pentagon City to the Skyline area in Fairfax County.

Officials say they expect $3 million to come from a fund created through a commercial real estate tax, though $1 million of that money could be reimbursed through state funding.

The board also has approved $148,000 in funds set aside for Arlington County projects for the streetcar environmental planning and design.

In 2008, the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority approved about $37 million for the line. Arlington County will contribute 80 percent of the costs and Fairfax County will provide 20 percent.


Tax collections remain weak

Virginia tax collections in February declined for the seventh straight month, but key state revenue sources did not repeat January’s deep drop.

The first monthly report on the state’s finances since Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, downgraded the budgeted revenue forecast last month showed year-to-date collections down 6.1 percent.

Virginia’s general revenues, which fund core services like public safety, health care and education, were down about 13.6 percent last month from February 2008.

The worst decline was in corporate income taxes, but several unusually large one-time payments made in February 2008 made the figure seem more dire than it is.

Personal income taxes, about two-thirds of general revenues, grew by 1 percent in February after a 16-point plunge in January.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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