Congress Set To Vote on Drug, Tax Bills at Session's Finale

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In the final push of the 100th Congress last Friday, legislators were set to vote on a controversial omnibus anti-drug bill and a measure that would provide tax relief for teachers, administrators, and parents seeking to save money for their children's college tuition.

The drug bill includes a provision that would deny federal student aid and other benefits to convicted drug offenders.

It also would raise the spending ceiling for the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act, increase penalties for drug offenses involving children or committed near schools, and create a National Commission on Drug-Free Schools.

The bill was expected to be approved with bipartisan support, and President Reagan has indicated he will sign it.

Tax Measure

Also last week, House and Senate conferees continued to debate differing versions of a measure making technical corrections in the landmark 1986 tax-reform act.

The two bills, HR 4333 and S 2238, have become roosts for lawmakers' pet projects and include dozens of riders that address issues far beyond the bills' original scope.

The measures would delay for one year the possible taxation of fringe benefits offered to high-paid employees such as superintendents. They also would exempt unused sick leave and vacation pay from taxation, and change a quirk in the law that required teachers in Hawaii, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania to pay federal taxes twice on their retirement benefits.

Another provision would create new incentives for parents to buy U.S. Savings Bonds to save for their children's college education.

Interest on the bonds would be fully tax-exempt for families with incomes below $60,000 if the earnings were used to pay for college tuition. Families with incomes of up to $80,000 would receive proportionately smaller tax breaks.

Children's Television

The Senate last week passed a bill by voice vote that would reimpose regulations on children's television that were removed in 1984 by the Federal Communications Commission.

The House approved the bill last June, thus setting the stage for an election-year conflict with the President.

Mr. Reagan has indicated that he may veto the measure after the Congress adjourns, thus foreclosing the possibility of an override vote.

The bill would limit the number of commercials allowed during children's programs and require broadcasters to provide educational and informational programming in order to have their licenses renewed.

Census, Family Bill Die

Education-related bills expected to die in committee at the session's end included the proposed "American family act" and a measure that would have forced the Bureau of the Census to adjust for the undercounting of minorities.

The family bill was introduced by the members of the House Select Committee on Children, Youth, and Families earlier this month--far too late in the session for any hope of final passage.

It included a number of proposals that would have aided school districts experimenting with school-based management, open enrollment, and character education.

The census bill would have directed the Census Bureau to adjust the results of the 1990 census to take into account persons who may have been overlooked, primarily those in cities and rural areas. It was defeated in the House Post Office and Civil Service Committee.

Educators have watched the bill closely because census population accounts are used in the funding formulas for Chapter 1 remedial-education aid and other school programs.

Bills Before Reagan

Bills approved by the Congress and expected to receive the President's signature address the following areas:

National Science Foundation. The bill would reauthorize the n.s.f. for five years at a funding level of $2.05 billion in fiscal 1989, rising to $3.5 billion in fiscal 1993.

Education of the Handicapped Act. The measure would address problems with the implementation of the preschool special-education program passed in 1986.

Radon. The bill would authorize $42 million in grants to states over the next three years to help reduce levels of the cancer-causing gas in homes and schools.

Lead. The bill would allow up to $66 million for a program to screen infants for high blood levels of lead. It also would force manufacturers of water coolers to recall all models with lead or lead-lined tanks.

President Reagan has already signed a welfare-reform bill that emphasizes education and job training. It is the first major revision of the welfare law since the system was created 50 years ago.

Also last week, the Office of Management and Budget announced that total spending approved by the Congress for fiscal 1989 resulted in a budget deficit that was less than the ceiling set by the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings deficit-reduction law, thus avoiding across-the-board cuts of up to $500 million.

Vol. 08, Issue 08

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