Northern Virginia's normally harmonious Senate delegation clashed on the floor of the Senate yesterday over a proposal to tighten regulations that spell out the responsibilities of landlords.

Sen. Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) said the proposal, sponsored by Sen. Wiley F. Mitchell Jr. (R-Alexandria), was an effort to "put restraints on free enterprise."

That characterization of the measure prompted Sen. Joseph V. Gartlan Jr. (D-Fairfax) to slam his microphone onto the desk and Sen. Clive L. Duval II (D-Fairfax) to rise to Mitchell's defense.

Mitchell said the bill is "simply intended to require landlords to meet minimum standards of decency" in their rental property. It amends the existing landlord-tenant law in Northern Virginia, which now applies only to owners with 10 or more units, to affect landlords with one or more rental properties.

Saslaw complained that "not a single constituent or local government agency" had requested the tightening of the law, and said that while he did not believe there is "a closet socialist in the Virginia General Assembly, some people are not happy unless they are putting restraints on free enterprise."

Duval said that the bill "merely requires landlords to keep the fleas out and have the trash collected."

The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 23 to 12, but Saslaw indicated he would ask that it be reconsidered as a special act that would require a two-thirds majority for passage.