State Journal: Preferences; Fund-Raising

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Call it affirmative action for the well-connected. A California Senate committee opened hearings last week to investigate reports that University of California officials gave admissions preference to students with ties to state politicians, major donors, and the university system's regents.

The reports, part of a series the Los Angeles Times newspaper began last month, have been particularly embarrassing for the prestigious university system since its board of regents--some of whom now stand accused of using their clout to help friends and relations--voted last July to end affirmative-action admissions policies for minorities and women.

Many of the political and university leaders named in the Times reports said that they had merely written letters of recommendation for applicants.

Lawmakers will investigate the reports and discuss a code of ethics for university officials, according to a spokeswoman for Sen. Tom Hayden, who will chair the hearings.

New Hampshire lawmakers are considering collecting the money for kindergarten classes from smokers.

The state House has approved a proposal to raise the state cigarette tax by 11 cents. It would earmark 10 of the 11 cents to help districts without kindergartens start them, and the remaining penny for programs that aim to prevent youth tobacco use.

The Senate began debating the bill last week, but one of its sponsors, Republican Sen. Ned Gordon, said it was unlikely to pass.

The measure, the latest in a series of attempts to create universal access to kindergarten in the tax-averse Granite State, would generate an estimated $16 million in the first year.

The new money would flow not to school districts but to municipal governments. And Dennis E. Murphy, the director of public affairs for the New Hampshire Education Association, complained that towns and cities might use the funds to buy police cruisers or fire trucks instead.

Nevertheless, the teachers' union supported the proposed tax hike, and argued it would have the beneficial side effect of helping to curb youth smoking.

A spokesman for Gov. Stephen Merrill--who has threatened to veto the bill--disagreed.

"You are talking about a generation that spends $20 on a CD, and $100 on a pair of sneakers," said Jim Rivers, the governor's press secretary.

--Drew Lindsay & Meg Sommerfeld

Vol. 15, Issue 31

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