VIRGINIA

Elections Board to Revisit GOP Oath

The State Board of Elections may reverse its earlier decision to require voters in the Republican presidential primary on Feb. 29 to pledge their support for the party's nominee when they vote in the November 2000 general election.

The board, which voted 2 to 1 in July to require the oath, plans to convene at 10 a.m. tomorrow in Richmond to give Republican and Democratic officials time to comment on the issue before the panel votes again. But board Chairman Pina Brooks Swift said yesterday she has had a change of heart and plans to reverse the vote she cast in favor of the pledge.

"It's been eating at me ever since that day," she said yesterday.

Virginia primaries are open to all voters without regard to party affiliation.

Swift's statement came as the board certified results from the Nov. 2 election that gave Republicans control of the General Assembly. The board certified the results of all 140 General Assembly seats, including Republican state Sen. Jane H. Woods's 37-vote loss to Democrat Leslie L. Byrne, of Fairfax. Woods plans to formally request a recount.

Decision Delayed in Switched Baby Case

A hearing in Stafford County to determine visitation rights for several relatives of one of the baby girls sent home from the University of Virginia Medical Center with the wrong parents ended without a decision yesterday.

Judge J. Martin Bass said he would make a decision in two weeks on whether the family members of Callie Marie Conley, one set of biological grandparents and two biological aunts, would gain visitation rights and, if so, what the terms of those rights would be. The lawyers and family members involved in the juvenile court case said the judge ordered them not to discuss the hearing further.

The biological grandparents and two aunts of Callie, who has lived with Paula Johnson since birth, are seeking the right to have her one weekend a month and for an unspecified amount of time during holidays and the summer, said their attorney, Michael Groot.

Johnson's attorney, Kenneth Mergenthal, would not comment, and it was unclear what conditions Johnson would be willing to accept. Ten days ago, a judge in Buena Vista denied Johnson custody of her biological daughter, Rebecca Grace Chittum.

Rep. Bateman Goes Home After Surgery

Rep. Herbert H. Bateman (R-Va.) returned home to Newport News yesterday after undergoing successful surgery last week to remove plaque from his right carotid artery at Naval Medical Command in Bethesda, his congressional office said.

Bateman, 71, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee's readiness subcommittee, represents the 1st Congressional District, which includes Stafford County, the Northern Neck, Eastern Shore and Newport News peninsula.

MARYLAND

'Cutting Edge' Pr. George's School Lauded

Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt was named one of the top schools in the nation that are on the "cutting edge of reform," according to the U.S. Department of Education.

The Prince George's school was among 13 nationwide that were named New American High Schools because of their innovative instructional methods, use of technology and partnerships with area universities.

Although Roosevelt has more students--3,000--than any other Prince George's high school, Principal Gerald L. Boarman said instruction has been made more intimate through the use of several distinct academies emphasizing science and technology, arts and communication, business, law, and health and human services.

Arundel Considers Expanding Ethics Rules

Some members of the Anne Arundel County Council said yesterday that they will attempt to expand local ethics laws to cover the behavior of county economic development officials.

Council member Barbara Samorajczyk (D-Annapolis) said several members are working jointly on the proposal in response to published reports about conflicts of interest at the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp.

In at least six instances since 1994, the organization approved small business loans to companies that had financial ties to its board members. The loans ranged from $11,000 to $300,000.

The economic development organization uses public funds and county office space. But it has not been subject to county ethics rules because it is a privately chartered, nonprofit corporation. Officials there had no comment yesterday on the proposal.

THE DISTRICT

D.C. Moves to Lift Language Barrier

To better serve non-English-speaking residents, the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs has contracted with a translation services company to allow people to seek permits and conduct other business in foreign languages.

The 140 languages covered by AT&T Language Line Services include Spanish, various dialects of Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Farsi and Urdu. If a customer speaking one of those languages calls or visits the department, a staff member will call the translation service; an interpreter is supposed to be available by phone within 45 seconds.

Congregation to Pick Senior Rabbi

Members of Washington Hebrew Congregation will meet Dec. 9 to vote on the recommendation that Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig become the new senior rabbi, replacing Joseph P. Weinberg, who died of cancer Oct. 15.

Board President Kenneth Marks said the 30-member board of directors voted unanimously to recommend Lustig, who has served for 13 years at the Northwest Washington congregation, the area's largest Reform assembly.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"I think there is somebody out there who is being lazy about their job. . . . You guys are sitting around here pointing your fingers at each other when you should be working together to work this out."

-- Maryland state Sen. Walter M. Baker (D-Cecil), chastising state police, sheriffs and court officials at a hearing for ignoring bureaucratic lapses and mistakes that could allow people accused of domestic violence to buy guns.