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State Journal: Store giveaway?; Leave us alone

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Appointments to Connecticut's binding-arbitration panel for teacher contracts, which usually are confirmed without opposition by the legislature, have touched off a partisan dispute among lawmakers this year.

A group of Republicans has moved to block recent nominations to the panel, whose members rule on contract disputes between school districts and teachers.

Echoing frequent complaints by school boards, the Republicans claim that too many of the arbitrators display a pro-union bent.

"They're too liberal,'' said Representative Edward Krawiecki Jr., the leader of the House Republican minority. "They are giving away the store.''

Mr. Krawiecki noted that one panel member had ruled in favor of the unions in 58 of 66 arbitration decisions in the past four years.

House members easily approved the appointment and reappointment of panel nominees last month. But Republicans in the Senate mustered enough opposition to deadlock the confirmation process, at least temporarily.

The squabble over the arbitration panel is only part of a continuing battle over the binding-arbitration law, which critics contend has produced inflated teacher salaries the state can no longer afford.

The legislature currently is considering a proposal by Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. to allow municipalities the option of rejecting contracts awarded through the first round of arbitration, and other bills altering the system will likely be introduced this session.

The Maryland Senate, meanwhile, is divided between rural and urban members over the issue of corporal punishment in schools.

Although state law bans such punishment, a handful of counties on the state's rustic Eastern Shore have an exemption to continue the practice.

A move by a senator from the Washington suburbs last month to extend the ban statewide drew complaints from rural members, who said they resented being told how to run their schools by lawmakers from urban and suburban areas with serious school-discipline problems.

"We don't have a real big problem in our schools because we walk softly but carry a big stick,'' Senator Walter M. Baker said.

"Why don't you just leave us alone,'' Mr. Baker asked his urban colleagues. "I know you can do it. I know you got the votes, but I'm asking you not to do it.''

The statewide ban failed on an initial vote, but passed two days later after sponsors rounded up absent supporters. --D.G. & H.D.

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