Stateline Story

Delaware Having Special Session This Month, Weary California Lawmakers Irritable

Democratic Delaware Gov. Thomas Carper is holding a special legislative session later this month over a teacher-accountability bill he's championed, a Carper aide said Thursday.

Meanwhile, with about a week left before California's lengthy regular session adjourns, a weary assemblymen gives a colleague two options: Lower your voice, or let's take our disagreement outside.

Carper, who finished out his term as chairman of the National Governor's Association in August, has made education reform the signature issue of his two stints as Delaware's chief executive. He's pushed hard to hold teachers accountable for the performance and behavior of students, and has encountered equally vigorous opposition from Delaware teachers unions and administrators.

After meeting several times with lawmakers, businessmen and educators over the summer, Carper made the decision to hold a special session toward the end of September, spokesman Anthony Farina said.

The teacher accountability bill is "the last piece of the education reform efforts that (Carper) started back in 1993," Farina said. "We have students who, starting this year, are accountable for their actions and their grades and their ability to meet standards -- it's only fair to have educator accountability as well."

Carper, who some political observers believe is eyeing a run for U.S. Senate against Republican Sen. William Roth in 2000, has raised questions with his aggressive stance on the teacher-accountability matter.

"There's a sense of urgency to get this done," state Rep. Bruce Reynolds recently told the Associated Press. "We all want improvement. But I still think we're moving too fast."

In California, no special sessions are on the horizon, just an end to a regular session that probably seems interminable to Democratic Assemblyman Richard Floyd. With adjournment mere days away, Floyd apparently reached his limit with Republican transportation proposals conflicting with those posed by Democrats.

A furious Floyd bellowed that "the Republican vision is: Go get a mule and a worn-out old cart," the Los Angeles Times reported.

When Republican Assemblyman George House took umbrage at those remarks, Floyd objected to House's tone and said House could lower his voice or, "I'll meet you out back."

Cooler heads prevailed during Floyd's outburst, which came eight days before California's Legislature adjourns Sept. 9.

By and large, California's eight-month legislative session has been substantive and productive. In recent days, the Golden State became the only state other than Massachusetts to impose consumer safety measures on gun makers.

In Massachusetts, a rift over the state budget has yielded a positive -- $100 million saved over the first 60 days of the fiscal year, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette reports.

The Massachusetts House and Senate both approved budgets of roughly $20.8 billion, but weren't able to iron out differences over their spending priorities by July 1, when the 1999 budget expired.

Since that time, Gov. Paul Cellucci has been submitting monthly budgets and tough spending guidelines that saved Massachusetts $100 million over July and August, Secretary of Administration and Finance Andrew S. Natsios told the Telegram & Gazette.

While the budget impasse drags on, House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran and Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham have been negotiating to find a solution.