February 3
MARYLAND
Boost for Montgomery financing reform

Montgomery County Council member Phil Andrews’s bill to establish the region’s first system of public financing for local elections got a strong rollout Monday as all eight of his colleagues signed on as co-sponsors.

The legislation will be formally introduced Tuesday. It would leverage small individual contributions of up to $150 with a system of matching funds. Andrews (D-Gaithersburg-Rockville), a candidate in the June Democratic primary for county executive, said the objectives are to draw more small donors into the county’s political process and enable candidates with limited resources to mount competitive campaigns for county council or county executive.

— Bill Turque

VIRGINIA
Legislators could hire lawyers under bill

The Virginia House voted overwhelmingly Monday for a bill allowing legislators to hire their own lawyers to defend state laws if the attorney general will not, a measure aimed at protecting the state’s ban on gay marriage.

The Republican-dominated House voted 65 to 32 for the legislation, which would give the General Assembly the right to intervene in lawsuits challenging Virginia laws or the state constitution if the attorney general opts not to do so.

The attorney general usually defends state laws or the constitution if it is challenged in court. But Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D) announced last month that he would not defend the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, submitting a motion to side with two gay couples challenging it in federal court.

The bill moves to the Senate, where Democrats are expected to kill it.

— Laura Vozzella

Two are killed in Merrifield crash

Two men were killed Monday morning in a fatal accident near Merrifield.

Fairfax County police said the incident occurred about 1:50 a.m., when a police officer tried to stop the driver of a 1999 Dodge Neon whom the officer suspected of driving while intoxicated.

The driver of the vehicle fled, heading westbound on Hill Top Road, police said. They said the driver lost control of the vehicle near Hill Top Road and Old Lee Highway and ran off the road, striking a tree.

The driver and one of the passengers were killed. Another passenger — an adult male — suffered life-threatening injuries.

County police said that the crash is under investigation but that it does “appear that speed and alcohol are factors.” Police did not immediately release the names of those involved.

— Dana Hedgpeth

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