MARYLAND

Schaefer Has Knee-Replacement Surgery

State Comptroller William Donald Schaefer (D) successfully underwent knee-replacement surgery yesterday, officials at a Baltimore hospital said.

Surgeons at Kernan Hospital said they replaced Schaefer's right knee to eliminate constant pain caused by osteoarthritis, which causes cartilage to break down. Without cartilage, nerve endings in the bones rub against each other and cause pain. Surgeons replaced the ends of the two bones that meet at the joint, as well as the depleted cartilage, with metal and plastic fittings.

Claude Moorman III, director of University of Maryland Sports Medicine, said Schaefer, 77, is expected to undergo two weeks of rehabilitation, during which the comptroller can perform his official duties. Schaefer will be able to resume normal activities after recovering completely, Moorman said.

Duncan Endorses Domestic Partners

Bill Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) endorsed legislation yesterday that would extend health benefits to the live-in partners of homosexual county employees.

The move gives Montgomery's domestic partners legislation a significant boost. The bill has drawn criticism from conservatives who say it would undermine the institution of marriage. Proponents say it would help end discrimination against homosexual employees, who are prevented by law from marrying and are excluded from certain benefits as a result.

Montgomery officials estimate that several hundred of the county's 8,000-plus employees would qualify for the benefits and that adding them would boost health care costs by less than 1 percent. Baltimore and Takoma Park already offer domestic partners benefits.

A public hearing on the bill is scheduled for Oct. 26.

Montgomery School Board Weighs Appeal

Members of the Montgomery County Board of Education met with lawyers in closed session yesterday to discuss the possibility of appealing to the Supreme Court a major court decision striking down the schools' transfer policy.

"There's a fairly strong belief in legal circles that the court made a flawed decision, that there was intellectual dishonesty based on the facts of the case," said board member Stephen N. Abrams (At Large). "But there's a competing view that, so what, we're well beyond race as determinative of education outcomes. Why not use socioeconomic factors."

The board has until January to appeal a decision by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that overturned a county policy to deny transfers into and out of schools on the basis of race to preserve diversity. "The potential impact is far-reaching, we have to weigh a lot of things," said board Vice President Patricia O'Neill (Bethesda-Chevy Chase).

THE REGION

Senators Back Wilson Bridge Funds

The ranking Republican and Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee said yesterday they would support spending another $600 million on building a new Woodrow Wilson Bridge, moving the $2 billion project a step closer to reality.

In a letter to Virginia Sens. Charles S. Robb (D) and John W. Warner (R), who have been pressing hard for the financing package, the committee's leaders said they would support the plan if it also wins backing from the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

The financing package, which would boost the total federal contribution to $1.5 billion, also must gain assent from the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, whose key members have expressed serious doubts about the merits of the plan.

THE DISTRICT

Tours Back On at FBI Headquarters

FBI officials have reopened the popular tour through their headquarters building at Ninth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW.

The tours resumed without publicity about three weeks ago after agency officials resolved unspecified security concerns that had led to the cancellation of the tours on July 23, said FBI spokesman Bill Carter. He said he still cannot go into the specifics of the security threat.

Nonprofits to Be Honored at White House

A mentoring group for at-risk District children and an organization dedicated to restoring the Anacostia River will be honored at the White House today with the President's Service Award.

Project Northstar and the Anacostia Watershed Society are among 21 groups nationwide recognized for volunteer efforts.

The environmental group is credited with improving one of the nation's most polluted rivers and with helping community groups become effective advocates for their neighborhoods.

Project Northstar matches children in need with mentors who tutor them, help them fill out college applications and provide direction and activities. Volunteers have even been successful in winning slots in overseas exchange programs for the children.

Project Northstar also will be honored at the Embassy of Finland, which on Monday night will host a silent auction to raise money for the charity. The fund-raiser, open to the public, will be from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

VIRGINIA

VRE Adds Trains on Manassas Line

Northern Virginia's commuter rail service will offer midday service starting Monday.

There will be two extra round trips on the Manassas line of the Virginia Railway Express. The weekday trains will leave Broad Run at 10:15 a.m. and 3:10 p.m. and depart Union Station in Washington at 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. As an extra incentive, VRE will offer free rides only on those trains all next week.

Railroad spokesman Matt Benka said the expanded service should draw more commuters and encourage tourists to use the trains. Benka said negotiations are underway with CSX, which owns the Fredericksburg line tracks, to expand service there.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

"In some cases, the agency was duplicating foster-care checks. In other cases, they weren't paying foster parents at all because their names weren't on their payroll [computer] tape. And they don't have one person in a leadership position who is financially trained."

-- Valerie Holt, the District of Columbia's chief financial officer, on the state of the city's child welfare agency.