Special Session Tab Less Than $2,000

Tuesday's one-day special session to fix a legislative mistake that gave Virginia workers the right to demand a "day of rest" on weekends cost the state less than $2,000, the clerk of the House of Delegates said yesterday.

Only eight of the 116 lawmakers who showed up to the special session accepted payment for the 31/2-hour meeting. The Senate passed a resolution at the start of the session declining per diem payments and mileage reimbursement. All lawmakers were entitled to a $115 stipend and 32.5 cents a mile for travel.

The $1,845.51 spent also covered hourly wages for staff to open the doors to the House chamber and for the sergeant-at-arms, officials said. The delegates who received payment according to the clerk of the court were Vincent F. Callahan Jr. (R-Fairfax), Lacey E. Putney (I-Bedford), Thomas D. Gear (R-Hampton), Robert Tata (R-Virginia Beach), R. Lee Ware Jr. (R-Powhatan), John J. Welch III (R-Virginia Beach), Jeffrey M. Frederick (R-Prince William) and Leo C. Wardrup Jr. (R-Virginia Beach).

Falling Tree Kills Power Co. Contractor

A contractor for Dominion Virginia Power was killed last night in Fairfax County after a tree fell on his head, police said.

After yesterday afternoon's storms, the man was cutting a tree that was leaning on a power line in the 7200 block of Barry Road near Walter Drive in the Kingstowne area shortly after 10 p.m. when he was knocked unconscious, police said. He was taken to the Springfield Healthplex emergency center, where he was pronounced dead, police said.

The man's name was not immediately released. The accident is under investigation.

U.S. Task Force on Human Trafficking

The Justice Department has formed a task force in Northern Virginia to investigate what officials call the growing problem of human trafficking.

The panel, announced this week by U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty, is part of a broader federal push to target human traffickers, who force their victims to work for little compensation as prostitutes, in sweatshops or as domestic servants, essentially making them modern-day slaves. Victims are most often new immigrants lured with promises of jobs and good pay, McNulty said in a statement.

McNulty said the task force will focus on pursuing leads of potential human trafficking activity, prosecuting offenders and making federal services available to victims.

Fairfax Grandmother Tied Up, Robbed

A 74-year-old Fairfax County woman was tied up and robbed Tuesday afternoon by two men who forced themselves into the Huntington area house where she was caring for three of her grandchildren, police said.

The men knocked on the door of the house, in the 5000 block of Chapin Avenue, about 12:45 p.m. and forced their way inside when the woman answered, police said. They threatened her with a knife, tied her up and stole cash and stereo equipment.

Police said neither the woman nor the children were injured. The men are described as Hispanic and in their thirties. One man is described as about 5-foot-2 with a stocky build; the other is about 5-foot-11 with a thin build.

VDOT Makes More Construction Deadlines

Virginia finished 36 percent of its road construction projects on time in the last fiscal year, and 64 percent were finished within 90 days of the scheduled completion date.

That percentage is an improvement over 2001, when the Department of Transportation finished 20 percent of projects on time.

This fiscal year, which began July 1, VDOT is aiming for a 60 percent on-time rate and completion of more than 100 projects. For the first time, the agency is requiring that all contracts have a fixed completion date, rather than a certain number of days for a project.


Dispute Continues Over Displacing Media

The Maryland attorney general's office sided with legislative leaders yesterday in a dispute with Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) over planned renovations to the State House that would dislocate several media offices.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) argued in a letter to Ehrlich last week that such decisions are subject to approval by the State House Trust, a four-member group that includes both legislative leaders. In a letter yesterday to Miller and Busch, representatives of the attorney general's office agreed.

In June, the Ehrlich administration notified television, radio and newspaper reporters, including those at The Washington Post, that they would have to move out of the State House for three years because their space was needed for gubernatorial staff displaced by renovations to water pipes and air conditioning.

Bipartisan Offering on Malpractice Law

A pair of legislators from Baltimore County presented medical malpractice legislation yesterday designed to break a stalemate in Annapolis.

The bipartisan plan pushed by Sen. James Brochin (D) and Del. John G. Trueschler (R) would effectively freeze Maryland doctors' malpractice rates, leaving the state to pick up the cost of increased premiums. The plan would be funded by a $15 increase in vehicle registration fees every two years. The legislators also called for merging several task forces studying the issue and suggested a special session to enact their legislation.

Maryland doctors' insurance costs increased 28 percent last year and could rise 40 percent at the end of this year.


Mayor Goes to Bat in Houston for Expos

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) said yesterday that he met with Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig during All-Star Game festivities this week in Houston, adding that he hopes baseball officials "make the right decision and bring baseball here."

Selig has said that team owners could decide where to move the Montreal Expos for next season during meetings Aug. 18 and 19 in Philadelphia. Williams said he and other D.C. officials made the rounds in Houston but got little sense of the owners' intentions.

"There's no question it is lawful to carry a gun on the street. So we've had to ensure that all of our officers are updated on the nuances of Virginia law that allow citizens to carry firearms in public places."

-- Fairfax police Lt. Col. Charles K. Peters on a Virginia law that allows residents to carry guns, as long as the weapons are fully visible. -- Page A1

Compiled from reports by staff writers David Nakamura, Maria Glod, Darragh Johnson, Jerry Markon, Chris L. Jenkins, Allan Lengel and John Wagner and the Associated Press.