Published Online: April 16, 1997

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Mission maneuvering in Mich.

If God can be written into a mission statement, then God can be written out. That's the thinking of Michigan state school board members, now that Republicans no longer control the panel.

The board is poised to adopt a new statement that removes two references to God, including one thanking "Almighty God for the blessings of freedom." The tone of the statement will "be more attuned to a pluralistic society," said Kathleen Straus, the president of the board.

In Michigan "we have all kinds of people who are not Christian; the statement is not fair to them," Ms. Straus said.

The elected board adopted the controversial mission statement--its first--in January 1995 when Republicans held a 6-2 majority. Ms. Straus, a Detroit Democrat, was the lone dissenter.

But the tide turned when two Democrats replaced Republicans this year. Ms. Straus expects to have the support of five members for the new draft, which was not available at press time.

Gop board member Clark Durant, who as board president pushed for the statement, did not return a phone call last week. When the statement was adopted, he noted that the references to God and religion were lifted from the state constitution.

Whipped in N.M.

In New Mexico, the Senate's minority whip apparently was taken off guard by a Republican filibuster launched on the final day of the legislative session to block a Democratic prison-finance plan. The filibuster killed proposals for a teacher pay raise and a boost in school maintenance and construction money, among other bills.

Republican Sen. L. Skip Vernon resigned from his post as whip late last month. Party whips usually have a good idea of how their peers intend to vote on given bills. Though his March 26 letter to the minority leader, Sen. Stuart Ingle, does not specifically say why he resigned, Mr. Vernon's wife, Lee Ann, said he was frustrated by being left out of the loop on the last-minute filibuster. Mr. Vernon was out of the country and could not be reached for comment last week.

It's unlikely that the pay-raise issue played a role in his decision, observers said.

"Knowing Skip Vernon, I don't think he would've voted for the raises," said Charles Boyer, a lobbyist for New Mexico's 8,000-member National Education Association affiliate.

While Mr. Vernon will no longer serve in a leadership role, he is expected to keep his seat.

--BESS KELLER & LYNN SCHNAIBERG

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