Federal News Roundup
Fulfilling his pledge that he would take the state's school-prayer case "all the way to the Supreme Court," Alabama Gov. Forrest H. (Fob) James came to Washington last week to ask the Justices to vacate a federal district court's injunction barring schools from following the state's new prayer law.
But the Supreme Court's clerk, Alexander Stevas, refused to accept the appeal on the grounds that there were "procedural deficiencies." Mr. Stevas said that since the state had not first sought relief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta, it had failed to exhaust the remedies of the lower courts.
The law, which was passed by the legislature this year and took effect in July, states that teachers may lead "willing students" in prayer. A Mobile attorney challenged the law, and in August a federal district judge ruled that it could not be put into effect until a trial is held on its constitutionality.
The initial refusal, however, does not mean that the Governor's petition will never be heard. The clerk advised Governor James that he could file a motion asking the Court to order Mr. Stevas to file the petition, according to a spokesman for the Court. The spokesman said that the Governor's lawyers had indicated that they planned to follow that course.
The House of Representatives has passed a bill that would require all schools with hazardous wastes to dispose of them in hazardous-waste landfills rather than in solid-waste landfills or local dumps, as some now do.
Sponsored by Representative James J. Florio, Democrat of New Jersey, HR 6307 also may force some schools to follow complicated and potentially expensive federal hazardous-waste disposal rules, because it would lower from 1,000 kilograms (one ton) to 100 kilograms (200 pounds) the amount of waste a school could produce per month without complying with the federal labeling, packaging, and record-keeping rules.
Few school systems in the country, however, produce even 100 kilograms of hazardous waste a month.
A similar bill, S 2432, is pending before the Senate.
An internal audit by the Education Department's inspector general has found that department officials last year violated standard procedures for awarding grants and contracts on a competitive basis and failed to follow timetables for reviewing proposals.
Acting at the request of Senator Max S. Baucus, Democrat of Montana, the auditors reviewed the grants, contracts, and purchases awarded by the department in September 1981, the last month of the 1981 fiscal year.
When he initiated the audit last year, Senator Baucus had asked the auditors to search for evidence of "year-end spending," a practice through which government agencies quickly award their left-over funds at the end of a spending year, rather than returning that money to the U.S. Treasury.
The auditors' report found that the department had disbursed $2.3 million in awards that "short-cut the full procurement cycle. ... The majority of these grants and contracts were awarded without competition or negotiation."
"Contrary to what is being preached by the current Administration, top Education Department officials apparently believe the cardinal sin of the bureaucracy is returning money to the treasury at the end of the year," said Senator Baucus, whose office released the report.
The report recommended that the department's management office monitor the process of awarding grants more closely to avoid year-end spending in the future.
Ralph J. Olmo, the department's comptroller, said that during this fiscal year, which ends this month, 73 percent of the department's contracts had already been awarded by the end of July.
Approximately 1,100 people have told Secretary of Health and Human Services Richard S. Schweiker, in writing, that they are not pleased with his proposal to stop soliciting their written comments on many new hhs regulations before they go into effect.
The department headed by Secretary Schweiker administers the Head Start preschool program for disadvantaged children.
In the June 22 edition of the Federal Register, the agency announced that in the future it would "omit notice and comment procedures when the agency for good cause finds" that such action would "impair the attainment of program objectives or would have other disadvantages that outweigh the benefits of receiving public comment" prior to the issuance of new federal regulations.
The proposed rule said that Mr. Schweiker intends that there be no change in the department's practice of generally soliciting public comment on new hhs rules. The notice was necessary, however, to ensure that when the department does omit the procedures, the courts will not consider that action a breach of its legal obligations.
Lawrence F. Davenport, a former college administrator in Michigan, California, and Alabama, has been nominated by President Reagan to be the Education Department's assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education.
In assuming the position as the department's chief administrator for most federal education programs, Mr. Davenport, 38 years old, would replace Vincent E. Reed, who resigned earlier this year. The nomination must be confirmed by the Senate.
Mr. Davenport, who served on Presidential advisory committees on education during the Nixon Administration, is currently the associate director of action, the federal agency that administers volunteer programs.