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  •   Gore Schedule Filled With Policy Initiatives

    Vice President Al Gore
    Vice President Al Gore. (Reuters)
    By Stephen Barr
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Sunday, December 13, 1998; Page A6

    Vice President Gore, in the role of White House master of ceremonies this week, will urge stepped-up efforts to hire the disabled, hand out law enforcement grant money to 44 states and promote mentoring programs for minority businesses.

    Gore plans one detour out of Washington – to New Hampshire, the home of the nation's first presidential primary. On Thursday – the day the House of Representatives is expected to begin considering whether to impeach President Clinton – aides said the vice president will cut a ribbon to open a new airline passenger terminal at a onetime Air Force base, participate in a business forum and likely offer to help resolve a sewage overflow problem in the Manchester area of the state.

    And, in a bow to the holiday season, Gore's schedule calls for him to speak on toy safety at the week's end.

    With Clinton in the Middle East most of this week and impeachment dominating Congress, White House officials have pulled together these events so Gore will have an opportunity to remind the public of his policy priorities as he prepares for next year's presidential campaign.

    The White House staff that coordinates Cabinet affairs "put on the press for good news" that could give Gore a platform while Clinton was out of the country, one administration official said.

    But a White House official stressed instead that some of the events, such as the one on disabilities, would give Gore a chance to highlight initiatives so he might better push them for funding in upcoming negotiations on next year's federal budget.

    The proposals for helping Americans with disabilities, scheduled for announcement on Monday, grow out of a Clinton executive order signed in March that created the National Task Force on Employment of Adults With Disabilities. When he issued the executive order, Clinton said he believed the unemployment rate among people with disabilities remains too high during a time of rapid job growth in the economy.

    A 1994 Census Bureau survey found that 52 percent of working-age Americans with disabilities – about 30 million – were employed. A 1997 survey of federal agencies showed that disabled workers make up 7.2 percent of the civil service work force.

    To create a model for the private sector, Gore will ask the Office of Personnel Management to develop strategies that provide more opportunities for disabled students to participate in federal internships and to find ways to foster the career development of disabled federal employees, a White House official said.

    Gore also will announce that the Small Business Administration will launch an outreach campaign to help disabled Americans start their own businesses, educate them about government contracting opportunities and give them greater access to business development programs.

    "Understanding the situation is the essential first step in finding a solution," OPM Director Janice R. Lachance said.

    The task force report also will outline legislative initiatives aimed at helping the disabled become productive workers without fear that they might lose health insurance benefits or special services, a White House official said.

    In another Monday event, Gore will announce that $93 million in grant money will be made available to 44 states to buy equipment, upgrade technology and hire new police officers. Gore, in particular, wants to promote the use of technology to combat crime, such as computerized "crime mapping," that allows police departments to chart crime patterns and locations, an aide said.

    On Wednesday, Gore intends to participate in a business roundtable with corporate executives on community development issues. Gore hopes to make an announcement on new efforts to help minority businesses, the aide said.

    The vice president also will tend to some long-running projects this week. On Monday, for example, he will meet with the heads of 32 agencies on how to re-energize his "reinventing government" initiative. A recent federal employee survey, sponsored by Gore, showed that only 35 percent of civil service workers believed the reform project was a top priority of their bosses.


    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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