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Status of Federal Legislation

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This monthly update reports the status of key education-related bills as of Aug. 2.

Legislation Provisions Status
Budget Resolutions, Fiscal 1997
H Con Res 178
Bills are spending blueprints with estimates for large categories of programs to guide appropriations for fiscal 1997, which begins Oct. 1, as well as long-term budget plans. House bill would provide $46.9 billion in 1997 for the category that includes education programs; it calls for eliminating several of them. Senate bill would provide $52.6 billion. The 1996 budget resolution offered $48.5 billion. (See "Lawmakers Back School-Aid Increases for Fiscal '97," May 29, 1996.) House approved its budget resolution May 16. Senate approved its version May 23.

Next: House-Senate conference to reconcile differences in the two versions of the bill has not yet been scheduled.

Education Appropriations, Fiscal 1997 The bill passed by the House would level-fund discretionary spending by the Department of Education. It would eliminate the Goals 2000: Educate America Act and reduce spending on immigrant-education programs. Spending on Title I would stay even. The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services postponed a markup of its bill until after Labor Day. (See related story, this week.) House passed HR 3755 on July 12.

Next: Senate subcommittee markup expected in September.

Health Care
HR 3103
House-Senate compromise would require insurers to sell health coverage to most individuals and limit the period for which an insurer can refuse coverage for pre-existing conditions. The bill includes a controversial four-year pilot project that would explore the feasibility of letting people pay routine medical costs from tax-deferred medical savings accounts. House passed conference report on Aug. 1, 421-2.

Next: Senate floor action.

HR 2202
Bill includes many measures that aim to curb illegal immigration and restrict legal and illegal immigrants' eligibility for some public benefits. House bill would allow states to deny undocumented children free access to K-12 public education. Most proposed restrictions on legal immigration were stripped from the bills. (See "Pressure Builds To Nix School Ban for Illegal Immigrants, June 19, 1996.) House approved HR 3269 on May 7.

Next: Senate floor action.

Minimum Wage
HR 3448
Business-tax package includes provision, sought by Democrats, that would raise the hourly minimum wage from $4.25 to $5.15 over two years. It would exempt workers under 20 who work for less than 90 days. (See "Proposed Wage Hike Seen Having Minor Impact on Payrolls," June 5, 1996.) House-Senate conferees met on July 30-31.

Next: House vote on the conference agreement was expected late last week. Senate floor action.

Official English
HR 739, HR 123, HR 1005,
HR 345, HR 739, S 356
Bills would declare English the official language of the United States. HR 739 and HR 1005 would explicitly bar public funding of bilingual education; the other bills are silent on the issue, but bilingual-education advocates fear any "official English" law could have that effect. (See "'Official English' Bills Could Kill Bilingual Education, NABE Says," March 20, 1996.) House passed HR 123 on Aug. 1, 259-169.

Next: Committee action in the Senate.

Parental Rights
HR 1271, HR 1946, S 984, HR 3324
HR 1271 would require federal agencies to obtain parental approval before administering certain surveys to students. HR 1946 and S 984 would bar government and school officials from interfering with "the upbringing of a child" unless a "compelling governmental interest" was involved. (See "Conservatives' Social-Issue Agenda Targets Schools," May 24, 1995.) HR 1271 was approved by the House on April 4, 1995. Last fall, hearings were held in the House on HR 1946 and in the Senate on the broader topic of parental rights.

Next: Senate committee or floor action.

Religious Liberty
HJ Res 121, HJ Res 127, HJ Res 184
These measures would amend the U.S. Constitution in an effort to provide greater protection for religious expression. HJ Res 184, the latest measure, is an attempt to bring together the supporters of the two earlier, competing proposals. (See School-Prayer Bills Test Republican Faithful," this week.) HJ Res 184 was introduced July 16.

Next: Measures are still before the House Judiciary Committee. House leaders hope to have a floor vote by early September. Bill passed the House on May 14 and the Senate on May 16.

School Meals
HR 2066
Bill would give schools more flexibility to meet new nutritional guidelines for federally subsidized school meals and ensure that schools would not have to use computerized nutrient analysis. (See "Bill Eases Rules on Meeting Dietary Guidelines," May 22, 1996.) Bill passed in the House on May 14 and the Senate on May 16. President Clinton signed the measure, PL 104-149, in June.
Special Education
S 1578, HR 3268
Both bills would: make it easier for school officials to reassign or expel disruptive disabled students; encourage mediation in disputes between schools and parents; require schools to set high standards for disabled students; and consolidate some research and training programs. (See "House Panel Approves Special Education Bill, June 5, 1996.) Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee unanimously approved S 1578 on March 21. The House passed HR 3268 unanimously on June 10.

Next: Floor action in the Senate.

Vocational Education
HR 1617
The Workforce and Career Development Act would replace more than 80 vocational-education, adult-education, and job-training programs with block grants for at-risk-youth programs, vocational education, adult literacy, and adult job training. (See "Lack of Progress Could Imperil Voc.-Ed. Bill," May 29, 1996, and "Lawmakers Appear To Near Voc.-Ed. Accord," April 17, 1996.) House-Senate conference passed bill on July 17 along party lines.

Next: Bill is stalled awaiting House and Senate floor action.

Welfare Reform
HR 3734
The bill would end guaranteed coverage and turn welfare funding over to the states in block grants. The bill also requires states to provide child-care funding for children of welfare recipients. The bill would not allow state payments to unwed teenage mothers unless they stay in school and live with an adult. (See "Clinton Endorses Republican Plan To Overhaul Welfare," this week.) House passed bill July 31. Senate bill passed Aug. 1.

Next: President Clinton indicated he will sign the bill.

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