Published Online: March 19, 1997

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Politics on display

Call it a coincidence, but that's not how Gov. Pete Wilson characterized Assembly Speaker Cruz Bustamante's attempt to deny two Southern California counties a share of the revenue in a school construction bill.

A politically motivated "money grab" was the way Sean Walsh, a spokesman for the Republican governor, described the matter in the Los Angeles Times last week.

The harsh words came after the Democratic speaker tried earlier this month to amend the $141 million classroom-construction bill to exclude San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

Those just happened to be the same counties that scored $35 million last fall for schools from the state panel that allocates bond funds. Not only did that panel include two Republicans who ran for legislative seats in those counties, but the funding was backed by Mr. Wilson.

Mr. Bustamante could not be reached for comment last week. His spokesman told the Times, however, that the idea of retribution "did not come up" during discussions of the bill.

The $141 million is left over from money appropriated last year for teachers and supplies linked to the state's effort to reduce class sizes in grades K-3.

Late last week, the bill had not been scheduled for consideration before the Assembly's education committee.

Prayer revisited

The Alabama Senate was scheduled to vote this week on an amendment to the state constitution that would introduce prayer into the school day by folding it into lessons on American government.

The Senate judiciary committee approved the legislation this month. It would have to be approved by voters in a state referendum. The judiciary committee also passed a bill that would permit schools to display the Ten Commandments.

The committee's chairman, Democratic Sen. Roger H. Bedford Jr., said both bills are constitutionally sound because they would make morning prayers and display of the commandments optional. Critics have charged, however, that the measures represent an unconstitutional attempt to introduce religion into public schools.

--ROBERT JOHNSTON & JESSICA L. SANDHAM

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