Bob McCartney, Washington Post columnist
Tomorrow is official the end of Virginia's legislative session for the year, but there is a lot of unfinished business hanging in the balance. Lawmakers have not passed a state budget, leaving open the option of a special session or perhaps even a government shutdown. Meanwhile in Maryland, a county executive is facing calls to resign. Washington Post columnist Bob McCartney weighs in on these big issues facing our area.
Can Virginia reach a deal on a state budget by the time they leave town?
"It doesn't look like it. I think it would take a miracle for them to get everything done in time to pass a budget by the time they're supposed to adjourn which is, as you said, tomorrow. This means they will come back for a special session, and there is a possibility that this could be fairly soon. The Senate Finance Committee chairman said that he thought it could be in a week or two. So it might not be delayed too long. They have to have a special session and approve a budget well before July 1 to avoid a government shutdown, which pretty much everybody agrees would be a disaster."
Gov. Bob McDonnell had a number of items on his agenda -- how much success did he have at passing his priority?
"I think we had a fairly disappointing session -- at best it was a mixed session. One of his biggest proposals was to weaken job protection for teachers, to make it easier to get rid of teachers who were perceived as doing a bad job. That failed yesterday. It was referred back to the Senate committee -- it's basically dead for the rest of the year. This was not a partisan thing, or not entirely. Three Republicans voted to kill that bill, and one of them was the Senate majority leader in the Senate. So that was a pretty big disappointment for McDonnell."
"There's no major new money for transportation. There might be a little bit more money for transportation for fixing roads and bridges and things that everybody agrees needs to be done. There might be a little bit when they finally get a deal, but there's no big breakthrough on transportation."
"Until this budget thing happened, all the attention was on things that McDonnell didn't want, which were the conservative social legislation that conservatives were pushing through. There was the one requiring an ultrasound before abortion and a bill that would make it possible to buy more than one handgun a month. McDonnell had cautioned the conservatives against over-reaching, but they didn't do that. I think he's actually happy now that Democrats are obstructing part of the budget, because he's able to claim the high ground and say, 'How dare you block funding for policemen and teachers."
In Anne Arundel County, Md., there are calls for the resignation of county executive John Leopold for the misuse of county police officers. Where does this leave the county?
"It's obviously very much in turmoil. It's disruptive for the county executive to be under indictment -- he has to spend time on his legal defense plus his opponents are emboldened."
"The county is already having problems with political gridlock. The council is deadlocked between Republicans and Democrats. Plus, the county administrator, the number two guy in the county and an ally of Leopold, passed away from a heart attack a few weeks ago, so there's been a lot of disruption there."
"This is a big county, with more than half a million people. They have some significant issues going on, including getting infrastructure in place to deal with increased traffic because of new jobs at Ft. Meade and the new casinos at Arundel Mills. A lot of this stuff is in question right now."
"This indictment also significantly aggravated a rift between the police unions on the one hand and Leopold on the other. The indictment says that the executive used the police officers for a variety of inappropriate tasks, and the Fraternal Order of Police called for the resignation of both Leopold and his police chief. In the indictment they say that police officers went to the police chief to complain about the behavior of the county executive, and he ignored them."