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On the Case

Convinced that schools bus drivers deserve a tax break?

Worried about pesticides on school grounds, or that school officials may be pressuring some parents to administer psychotropic drugs to their children?

Or maybe you just think the Postal Service really needs a commemorative stamp promoting school safety.

Well, rest easy. Someone in Congress is working on it.

Since the 108th Congress began in January, lawmakers have introduced scores of education-related bills. Submitting bills is a popular if sometimes futile exercise on Capitol Hill. Many bills doubtless are destined for the dustbin without so much as a committee hearing.

Of course, the amount of attention lawmakers get for their bills has a lot to do with their status within Congress and their political affiliations. In other words, it's probably not the best time for a freshman House Democrat to get a bill enacted, since Republicans control both chambers, and the White House.

A few rookies, however, may have better luck. When Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the former secretary of education, recently announced the proposed American History and Civics Education Act, he even managed to win a favorable statement on it from the department he once ran. (Sen. Alexander isn't exactly the first member to favor that cause, however. The agency already funds two civics programs and grants for teaching "traditional" American history.)

Meanwhile, to drum up support for the proposal called the Child Medication Safety Act, Reps. Max Burns and Johnny Isakson, both Republicans from Georgia, sent out a "Dear Colleague" letter this month to fellow representatives. The bill calls on states to establish policies prohibiting school personnel from forcing parents to give their children behavior-altering drugs.

Plenty of bills target the tax code, whether to expand school choice, underwrite school modernization, or help teachers pay for their education.

Rep. David Vitter, R-La., has another concern with his recent bill called the School Bus Driver Tax Fairness Act of 2003. It's designed to allow bus drivers who own their vehicles to deduct certain expenses. The bill is refreshingly short, just a few sentences adding a new subparagraph to paragraph (2) of section 62 (a) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.

At press time, there were no co-sponsors.

—Erik W. Robelen

Vol. 22, Issue 27, Page 17

Published in Print: March 19, 2003, as Federal File

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