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State Journal: The Cat and the Canary; April Fools

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Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas has lately been looking like the cat who swallowed the canary.

But unlike that well-fed tabby, the Governor has been more than willing to confess his mischief.

After months of rancorous debate between fundamentalist Christians and Mr. Clinton's allies, the legislature last month approved the Governor's health-department budget--including 10 new school-based health clinics that will be allowed to distribute contraceptives.

As Mr. Clinton silently looked on last month, fundamentalist forces amended his budget bill to preclude the use of state funds for contraceptives in the clinics. Then the Governor set to work persuading his allies to go ahead with the fundamentalists' legislation.

The contraceptive opponents did not realize, however, that their amendment would have no effect on the $90 million in federal funds that make up about three-quarters of the health department's budget. The law passed 82 to 10.

"We'll be able to conduct the business just as we have," Governor Clinton proudly proclaimed after the vote.

Feeling hoodwinked, legislative members of the Christian Coalition now say they will sue the Governor for his deception.

But, said Mike Gauldin, Mr. Clinton's spokesman, "I've never heard of anyone suing over their own law."


Things are working out a little differently for Gov. Jim Edgar of Illinois this spring, though, with Speaker of the House Michael J. Madigan on the other end of the feline-avian equation.

The Governor called the legislature into special session to pass a property-tax relief plan by April 1.

In response, the Democratic Speaker first took a House bill reflecting the Governor's call for a 5 percent cap on property-tax increases and amended it until a spokesman for the Senate Republican leader, James Philip, called it "a joke bill ... not taken seriously by anybody.''

Then, as the Governor's April Fools' Day deadline came and went, the Speaker journeyed to Florida, confident that Mr. Edgar's property-tax proposals were dead in the Democrat-controlled Senate and House.

Steven E. Brown, a press secretary for Speaker Madigan, said the General Assembly simply did not see a need "to act on the Edgar campaign rhetoric" by passing tax-relief measures.

"You can view it," Mr. Brown said, "as a failure by the Governor to adequately gauge the mood of the legislature. He'll learn."--jw & ps

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