VIRGINIA

U-Va. Posts High Black Graduation Rate

The University of Virginia had the highest graduation rate for black students--87 percent--of any state university last year, according to a study by the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education.

The journal reported in its autumn edition that the black graduation rate at U-Va. was 20 points higher than the next-highest state university, North Carolina, and higher than Duke, Stanford and five of the eight Ivy League colleges.

The black graduation rate for Georgetown was 85 percent; Washington and Lee, 78 percent; Howard, 50 percent; the University of Maryland, 46 percent; and the University of the District of Columbia, 13 percent. The journal said that schools with the financial resources to support black students often have the highest graduation rates.

State Song Contestant Loses in Court

An Alexandria man has lost his bid to force Virginia officials to restart their contest to pick a new state song and reconsider his tune, "Virginia Is for Lovers," which lost in the first round.

U.S. District Judge Albert V. Bryan Jr. threw out Ray Parker's lawsuit Friday, although Parker did not learn of the results until this week. Bryan found that the 11th Amendment to the Constitution protects the states from lawsuits such as Parker's that seek to force state officials to take specific actions.

Parker had alleged that his song, one of 360 contenders to replace the racially charged "Carry Me Back to Old Virginia," never got a fair hearing because the contest had become a vehicle for raising campaign contributions. One of the eight finalists in the song contest is by sausage baron Jimmy Dean, who has donated money to state legislators.

Parker said he has not decided whether to appeal.

THE DISTRICT

Negotiators Reach Deal on D.C. Budget

House and Senate negotiators reached a final agreement yesterday on the District's $4.7 billion budget for fiscal 2000 that appeared to be acceptable to Congress and President Clinton. However, the budget still could be merged with other spending bills before Congress, so its outcome is uncertain.

The House and Senate negotiators called on managers of the Blue Plains Sewage Treatment Plant to speed up renovations to replace the chlorine used there with less dangerous chemicals. No additional money was included for those safety renovations.

The negotiators did add a provision requested by Reps. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) and James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) allocating $6.7 million in federal funds to accelerate the conversion of the Lorton Correctional Complex to a public park and residential area.

Disposal of School Property Criticized

D.C. Council member Kevin P. Chavous (D-Ward 7) and public witnesses accused the D.C. financial control board yesterday of delegating disposal of excess school properties to the school system more than two years ago and then failing to act when the process slowed.

Chavous, head of the council's education committee, held a hearing on the issue at Jefferson Junior High School, and witnesses said the school system has been unresponsive to those interested in purchasing empty school buildings.

The school system has dozens of surplus properties worth millions of dollars. Some organizations, including people trying to open charter schools, have said they have had trouble getting permission from school officials to use the buildings.

"We cannot allow possible sources of city income and economic development to remain dormant," Chavous said.

MARYLAND

Court Says Glendening Can Deny Parole

Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) has the right to deny parole to first-degree murderers serving life sentences, even if they were sentenced before he announced his no-parole policy in 1995, the Maryland Court of Appeals has ruled.

The court, in a unanimous opinion Tuesday, rejected arguments by attorneys for Walter Lomax that Glendening's policy amounts to a constitutionally prohibited ex post facto law, or retroactive imposition of a law.

The governor is merely exercising the discretion given him by law to either approve or reject recommendations from the Maryland Parole Commission to release inmates from prison, the state's highest court said.

Lomax was convicted in 1969 of first-degree murder. He was considered for parole nine times, and parole was recommended in 1989 and 1994.

Experiment Uses Chicken Litter for Fuel

Maryland utility officials are burning chicken litter as fuel for a power plant in an experiment that is hoped to provide a solution to the Delmarva Peninsula's waste management problem.

Maryland Environmental Services, a state agency, is running the three-day experiment at the Eastern Correctional Institute.

The litter, a mix of chicken manure and hay scraped from the floors of chicken houses, is compressed into pellets by an Eastern Shore company. The power plant, which usually burns wood chips, provides heat and electricity to the 3,200-inmate prison.

THE REGION

Region to Revise Drought Emergency Plan

Regional officials agreed yesterday to rewrite their drought emergency plan in hope of avoiding last summer's confusion over differing water restrictions in local jurisdictions.

The new plan would include a graduated set of scarce water conditions that would trigger local governments first to declare a drought situation, then ask for voluntary conservation, then call for limited water-use restrictions before, in the worst case, mandating broader restrictions. The triggers have not been agreed upon yet but would include such things as the level of the Potomac River.

The proposal for a new drought plan, made by a task force, was approved yesterday by the board of directors of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"It's just a matter of me doing what I had to do that day, like any other day. It just so happens it was a bad day."

-- Alfred Rascon, who as an Army medic dashed through machine gun fire and grenade blasts to treat the wounded during a 1966 battle in Vietnam and was severely wounded himself. He is now on the verge of receiving the Medal of Honor. His original recommendation for the medal was lost, and efforts to correct the situation were bogged down for years in the Pentagon bureaucracy.