House Leaders May Seek 'Veto' If IDEA Rules Stay as Proposed

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House education leaders may try to kill proposed rules for the main federal special education law by using new congressional authority for targeting certain regulations for elimination.

The power Congress gained this year to "veto" regulations adopted by executive agencies has never been used on education law.

But Republicans on the House Education and the Workforce Committee may resort to such action if the Department of Education enacts proposed regulations that some committee members believe overstep the intent of the recently revised Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, committee spokesman Jay Diskey said last week.

Despite the new authority, killing a federal regulation remains difficult. Any measure would have to pass the relevant congressional committee and the full House and Senate, and then be signed into law by President Clinton.

"It's not an easy task, but certainly an option in this case," Mr. Diskey said. "We hope it doesn't come to that."

In an Oct. 21 letter, Republican Reps. Bill Goodling of Pennsylvania, the chairman of the House committee, and Frank Riggs of California, the chairman of its Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Youth, and Families, blasted Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley for not allowing them to participate in writing the regulations for the controversial law.

"We fully expected to be appraised [sic] during the regulatory process, a courtesy that would only be appropriate given your unprecedented participation during the legislative process," they wrote. "Nevertheless, our expectations were ignored by your office."

A month later, Mr. Riley sent a three-paragraph letter that advised Mr. Goodling to submit comments on the proposals. The congressman had not done so as of last week.

'We Want Input'

In the nearly two months since the Goodling-Riggs letter was written, education department officials have begun meeting periodically with House aides.

Thomas Hehir, director of the Education Department's office of special education programs, said he wasn't worried about the threat of a congressional regulations veto.

"I certainly don't think we'll get to that point," he said, adding that discussions with Capitol Hill staff members last week had gone well. "We want their input on the regs."

Final IDEA regulations will not be issued until April 1998. But some education groups and administrators are complaining that the proposed regulation document is too long and that the Education Department has taken too much liberty in writing the rules--a longstanding complaint.

"They are trying to rewrite the law and get things in there that they didn't get in the legislative battle," said Sally McConnell, the government-relations director for the National Association of Elementary School Principals in Alexandria, Va. Her group hopes that the department will delete proposed language that would further restrict home schooling and discipline options for disabled students.

Bruce Hunter, the government-relations director for the American Association of School Administrators, also in Alexandria, agreed that the law was overregulated.

"It's about what everyone expected," he said, "and it means we're going to have a little pushing and pulling before this is over."

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