President Reagan signed legislation authorizing the minting of gold and silver commemorative coins that could bring in as much as $137 million for the restoration of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, where millions of immigrants entered the United States. The coins are to go on sale to the public next February. Recently, Rep. Bruce F. Vento (D-Minn.) called for a General Accounting Office investigation into the accounting and reporting work of the nonprofit group that is overseeing the restoration. (HR47; July 9) SENATE
Rights of the Handicapped
The Labor and Human Resources Committee approved, by voice vote, legislation designed to overturn a Supreme Court decision preventing parents of disabled children who successfully sue under the Education for All Handicapped Children Act from getting repayment of attorneys' fees. The high court ruled that Congress did not authorize the money for such fees because it would add to the costs states must bear to provide education to the handicapped. The bill's backers, however, say the measure is needed to ensure adequate education for the disabled. The panel also approved a bill that would provide $31.5 million over the next three years for grants to the states to help guarantee the rights of the mentally ill. (S974/S415; July 10)
The Judiciary Committee approved two constitutional amendments that would require a balanced budget. The panel approved, 11 to 7, an amendment that would require Congress to approve a balanced budget unless three-fifths of the members of both chambers approve deficit spending. The measure would limit tax increases to the increase in the gross national product or another measure of national income and must be approved by a full majority vote of the members of both chambers. The second amendment, approved by a 14-to-3 vote, would require Congress to pass a balanced budget, but would give Congress more leeway to raise taxes or increase spending. (SJRes13/No bill number yet; July 11) HOUSE
The Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs Committee authorized, by voice vote, $16.3 billion for fiscal 1986 housing subsidies, a total the administration says is too high. The bill would include funds for new construction and homeless shelters, which the administration opposes. It also would fund public housing with one-time grants, rather than financing construction over a number of years. The bill does not include the administration's plan to provide public-housing tenants with vouchers for their own private housing. (HR1; July 10)
The Appropriations Committee approved, by voice vote, three fiscal 1986 appropriations bills.
Energy and Water. The committee approved $15.3 billion for energy and water programs. The measure includes $11 billion for Energy Department nuclear activities, $740 million below the administration's request. The panel made cuts in solar, nuclear fission and high-level, waste-disposal programs. For water projects, the committee approved $2.9 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers and $800 million for the Bureau of Reclamation, or, in total, about $400 million more than the administration had sought. (No bill number yet)
Congress. The committee also approved a $1.3 billion bill for the legislative agencies and the House, a slight increase over fiscal 1985. The Senate will add its appropriation -- expected to be about $300 million -- to the bill at a later date. (No bill number yet; July 10)
Commerce, State, Justice. This bill would provide $3.9 billion for the Justice Department, $2.5 billion for the State Department and $1.6 billion for the Commerce Department. It includes money for several programs the administration wants to abolish, including the Legal Services Corporation ($305 million), the Economic Development Administration ($180 million) and the Small Business Administration ($591 million). The bill's $12 billion total is $18 million below the fiscal 1985 appropriation.