Groups Back Y2K Liability Bill

A coalition of business and high-tech groups urged the Senate and the White House yesterday to support legislation that would limit liability lawsuits in the event of Year 2000 computer problems.

The Y2K bill, scheduled to go to the Senate floor today, is the No. 1 priority of the computer and technology industries, Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America, said at a news conference.

Also supporting the bill were Tracy Mullin, president of the National Retail Federation; Jerry Jasinowski, president of the National Association of Manufacturers; Thomas J. Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; and Robert Holleyman, president of the Business Software Alliance.

Senate Democrats, who have twice blocked the bill over unrelated disputes, will likely vote today to proceed with debate, boosting the bill's prospects. The White House, however, has threatened to veto the Senate bill and a version approved by the House.

Meat Import Safety Addressed

The House approved a measure that would terminate by March meat and poultry imports from any country whose inspection procedures do not measure up to U.S. standards.

The amendment to the agriculture appropriations bill would cut off funding that the Agriculture Department's Food Safety and Inspection Service would need to process imports from a country that USDA determines does not meet U.S. safety standards.

The United States imports less than 10 percent of the meat and poultry consumed in the country, with Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark and Brazil accounting for 94 percent of the imports.

Parity for Mental Health Care

The Clinton administration said that letters requiring "parity" for mental health care have been sent to the 285 insurance plans that provide medical and surgical coverage for federal employees.

The letter, issued by the Office of Personnel Management after Monday's White House mental health conference, directs the insurance companies to make their coverage "for mental health and substance abuse identical with regard to traditional medical care deductibles, coinsurance, copays, and day and visit limitations." William "Ed" Flynn, the official in charge of OPM insurance policy, estimated that the parity requirement would raise premiums between 1 percent and 2 percent.

Vitter Takes Livingston's Seat

Louisiana Republican David Vitter was sworn in to replace Bob Livingston, the House speaker-in-waiting who resigned from Congress after acknowledging having had extramarital affairs.

House Republicans now outnumber Democrats 223 to 211, with one seat held by an independent who votes with the Democrats.