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President Reagan last week signed a compromise bill that exempts school districts and other public employers from costly new overtime-wage provisions now applicable to them under the terms of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision.

The bill, S 1570, passed by the House Nov. 1 and by the Senate Nov. 7, effectively nullifies the Court's February decision in Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transportation Authority. That ruling required districts to provide overtime pay and the minimum wage to non-educational employees instead of4compensatory time off.

School districts have traditionally been exempt from these provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

In the compromise legislation, a school employee can accrue a maximum of 240 compensatory hours annually. The Senate bill had allowed 480 hours; the House version had set the limit at 180 hours. School districts would still be required to pay all employees the minimum wage of $3.35 an hour.

The bill calls for enforcement of these provisions beginning next April.

The House last week passed a bill that would allow the awarding of legal fees in special-education lawsuits.

The Senate passed a similar bill just before the August break. The two versions now go to a conference committee.

The two bills, HR 1523 and S 415, are designed to nullify the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Smith v. Robinson. The High Court ruled in that decision that parents may not file lawsuits under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 if remedies are available under P.L. 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975. Legal fees are not available under P.L. 94-142.

While the bills are similar in most respects--both allowing fees at the administrative level as well as in formal court action--the Senate version bars "double dipping" by stipulating that publicly funded lawyers--such as those employed by legal-aid groups--representing parents may be reimbursed only for costs and not at the prevailing market rate.

That provision, Congressional aides say, may be the major obstacle to final passage of the bill.

Vol. 05, Issue 12

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