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DAYBREAK DAILY: Maryland continues financial fight against ACC

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ABC7 WEATHER: Mostly cloudy (fog early) with highs in the upper 40s. http://wj.la/72e8x6

‘GOOD MORNING WASHINGTON’: Among the reports – Mayor Gray to sign minimum-wage bill; Justin Wolfe hearing; much more, beginning at 4:30 a.m. M-F.

ACC!: Or not, per the Baltimore Sun, “As the University of Maryland’s athletic teams are winding down their membership in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the school is considerably ramping up legal efforts — and making new allegations — aimed at ending the 61-year partnership on its own financial terms. Maryland filed a $157 million counterclaim against the ACC on Monday, alleging the conference is improperly withholding revenue and NCAA funds as retaliation for the school’s November 2012 decision to leave for the Big Ten Conference.

“The counterclaim asks a North Carolina court to order the ACC to provide Maryland $16 million owed in shared revenue, plus $157 million in compensatory damages for alleged violations of Maryland antitrust laws. The $157 million is three times Maryland’s $52.2 million exit fee imposed by the ACC, a multiplier customary for antitrust claims.” http://bsun.md/1amsQNX

TESTY ABOUT TESTS: Too many of ’em, per the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “House Republicans have put pen to paper on their education reforms aimed at cutting the number of Standards of Learning tests and improving the remaining assessments. They seek more “blended learning” -- a mix of traditional classes, virtual courses and dual enrollment courses, for example -- and want to develop professional growth channels for teachers.

“Reforming the SOL tests has received bipartisan attention this year, including from Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who says he heard about the assessments on the campaign trail. Under the proposals outlined in a House GOP news conference Tuesday morning, SOL tests would be reduced from 34 to 26 in part by focusing on reading and math in the early grades.” http://bit.ly/JZku8k

TALKING HEAD: Make that “former” talking head, per the Virginian-Pilot, “They met on a beach in the Bahamas in 2006 and dated on and off for years. He, a suave Canadian with Greek roots. She, a bubbly television news anchor. By 2009, Theodoros "Terry" Grontis was sharing a Hampton home with Juliet Bickford. They quickly began spending lavishly - leasing expensive sports cars, buying fancy clothes and jewelry, and traveling often.

“But federal authorities say the money was ill-gotten. They say Grontis and two others bilked crime victims, divorced people and even a lottery winner out of more than $1 million. Bickford's bank account became key to laundering the money, according to court records. . . Bickford, 35, is scheduled to plead guilty to a related tax crime this morning. She has been cooperating with the authorities, court records indicate, and she resigned from her job at WTKR NewsChannel 3 last week.” http://bit.ly/L3uuOa

MIXED BAG: Of a poll, per the Washington Post, “Public opinion of Mayor Vincent C. Gray has strongly rebounded in the 18 months since scandal threatened to derail his mayoralty, with voters supporting him over all of his Democratic primary challengers, according to a new Washington Post poll. But doubts about Gray’s trustworthiness persist, according to the survey. With just 24 percent of Democratic voters backing him, the mayor’s opponents still have an opening to unite voters against the him before the April 1 primary.

“In addition, the poll shows that Gray is not an inevitable winner after the primary. He holds a statistically insignificant edge over D.C. Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large), who is considering a run in the November general election. The close numbers herald what could be the city’s most competitive general election since the city began electing mayors in 1974.” http://wapo.st/1m3RVp1

SAY WHAT?: Just the facts, per the New York Times, “The National Security Agency has implanted software in nearly 100,000 computers around the world that allows the United States to conduct surveillance on those machines and can also create a digital highway for launching cyberattacks.

“While most of the software is inserted by gaining access to computer networks, the N.S.A. has increasingly made use of a secret technology that enables it to enter and alter data in computers even if they are not connected to the Internet, according to N.S.A. documents, computer experts and American officials.” http://nyti.ms/1dOET7E

WV WATER: Getting better, per the Charleston Gazette, “About one-third of the West Virginia American Water customers affected by a do-not-use water advisory had been told they can use their tap water as of Tuesday evening, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said Tuesday night. Officials said there is still no timeline to completely restore water to everyone in the nine counties affected by the leak of a coal-processing chemical into the Elk River last week. About 300,000 residents were under the advisory at its peak.

“The water company told residents in parts of Charleston and South Charleston that they could flush the pipes in their homes on Monday. But by Tuesday evening, just three more areas, all in Kanawha County, had been added to that list. Testing teams with the West Virginia National Guard and the water company found a handful of areas where test results showed levels of Crude MCHM -- the chemical that leaked from the Freedom Industries plant into the Elk -- above the 1-part-per-million level that officials say they're using to declare the water safe, officials said.” http://bit.ly/L3zUbU

MEANWHILE: In Virginia, per the Roanoke Times, “When a toxic chemical was sucked into the West Virginia Water Co.’s treatment plant on the Elk River in Charleston, confused customers called the Western Virginia Water Authority in Roanoke to find out whether it was safe to drink the water. Though hundreds of miles, a state border and many mountains separate the two water companies, customers still want to know whether what happened in West Virginia can happen in western Virginia.

“Those seeking assurance that Virginia exercises more oversight than its neighbor on chemical storage plants are in for a disappointment. “We don’t have a role in that,” said Bill Hayden, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. “State building code is responsible for regulating chemical storage tanks, and that is up to the localities.” http://bit.ly/1b2hgrn

GOVERNMENT FUNDING: It’ll be there, per The Hill, “The House is poised Wednesday to approve a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill to fund the government, despite the opposition of conservative groups. Both parties scored policy wins in the bill, creating the potential for a resounding show of support on the House floor.

“The deadline for a government shutdown looms at midnight Saturday, but the political dynamic has shifted dramatically since October’s break in funding. House lawmakers on Tuesday approved a three-day continuing resolution to keep the government open — and did so by voice vote, a procedure usually reserved for only the most uncontroversial legislation.” http://bit.ly/1m6waCd 

POLITICO PLAY: “President Barack Obama has a plan to save the Senate’s tenuous Democratic majority: Sell a populist message, try to make Obamacare work better and raise lots of cash. And unlike previous years when Senate Democrats were mostly left to fight on their own, the White House is wasting no time coordinating its political and policy agenda with congressional leaders and vulnerable lawmakers.

“The 55-member Senate Democratic Caucus will meet with Obama on Wednesday at the White House, the first such session since October. White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer and legislative director Katie Beirne Fallon have already briefed Senate leadership aides on the outlines of proposals Obama is considering for the Jan. 28 State of the Union address, and they’re expected to do the same with House Democratic leadership aides.” http://politi.co/1j6Y3ge

EVER LIMPING: And so it goes – or not, per the Frederick News-Post, “As state leaders scramble to remedy problems with Maryland’s health care exchange, state Sen. David Brinkley is pushing for an independent investigation into the troubled rollout. On Tuesday, the state’s lieutenant governor and others involved with the health exchange laid out their efforts to help those who haven’t been able to secure insurance due to the problems. But Brinkley, R-District 4, argued that to move forward, state lawmakers also need to understand root causes.

“In a Tuesday letter to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Brinkley wrote that “bureaucratic malpractice” contributed to the technical glitches besetting the state’s health care website. And during a Finance Committee hearing, Brinkley said state lawmakers had been “lied to” and told the site would be ready for its Oct. 1 launch. “The Legislature here is being treated like mushrooms — we’re being kept in the dark and covered in manure,” Brinkley, the Senate minority leader, said in an interview.” http://bit.ly/1iTe1YO

SEXUAL ASSAULTS AT GW: Revealing numbers, per City Paper, “The Metropolitan Police Department received 76 emergency calls for sexual assaults on George Washington University's campus in the past four years, but only 17 of those—22 percent—have an accompanying police report, according to an article from the school's student newspaper, The Hatchet.

“The paper quoted crime experts and victim advocates saying the discrepancy seems "surprisingly high," and cited a Human Rights Watch report that uncovered about 170 instances in which hospitals had recorded as reporting a sexual assault to the police, but the police had not written an incident report. The report also stated that cops are more likely to not write a report for a case that involves alcohol.” http://bit.ly/1eS2VR4

UNDER THE DESK: Or something like that, per Gazette.Net, “At least four times a year, each public school in Montgomery County has practiced an emergency drill to help prepare staff and students for the worst, from a tornado to an armed shooter. While Montgomery County Public Schools has operated under its own mandate for at least ten years, the school system will face a new state requirement next school year that calls for six drills each year, according to Bob Hellmuth, director of school safety and security for the school system.

“Following the revision of emergency plan guidelines for Maryland schools in April 2013, the Maryland State Board of Education amended state regulations later in the year in part to add a requirement that schools must conduct drills for evacuation, “shelter in place,” reverse evacuation, lockdown, severe weather and “drop, cover, and hold.” The state expanded the types of drills local school districts and schools must perform to help them prepare for “a broader range of emergencies,” according to a May 21, 2013, letter from state Superintendent Lillian M. Lowery to members of the Maryland school board.” http://bit.ly/1cn15Vi

OPEN HOUSE: Plenty of room, per ARLnow, “Arlington is “still sorting through the mess” of the BRAC closures that have boosted office vacancy rates, an Arlington representative told hundreds of Northern Virginia commercial real estate developers.

“Arlington, like other communities in the D.C. area, is experiencing weakness in the office market. The high office vacancy rate is exacerbated by new office buildings coming on the market and certain large employers (including military offices impacted by BRAC) leaving. To combat that, Arlington is considering options providing certain incentives to attract new businesses and hang on to existing employers.” http://bit.ly/1fxecuM

SPORTS, BRIEFLY: Caps lose 2-1 against San Jose.

TRENDING ON ABC7 FACEBOOK: “Go ahead, have that second cup of coffee! It may just boost your brain power. Caffeine is a proven memory booster, but according to a new study from Johns Hopkins, it's really about much you drink and when you drink it.” http://wj.la/1dnoOJF

NEWSTALK: Among today’s guests (10 a.m., NewsChannel 8) is Prince George's County State's Attorney Angela Alsobrooks, who will be asked about her legislative agenda for this year.

--Skip Wood

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