The Senate yesterday dropped plans to restore a proposed pay raise for D.C. Council members and remove a provision in the District's budget that would allow construction of two cellular telephone towers in Rock Creek Park.
In approving the District's fiscal 2000 budget on a voice vote, senators said they would block council members' proposed 15.6 percent pay raise, instead permitting them raises of about 5 percent, to $84,000 a year.
A week ago, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) said she would agree to the full increase if it would speed passage of the city's $4.7 billion spending plan. But the Clinton administration said the president would veto the bill because it included GOP inserts to ban the use of marijuana for medical purposes and a needle-exchange program for drug addicts, aimed at curbing the spread of HIV and AIDS.
With the White House holding firm, Hutchison restated her opposition to a 15.6 percent raise for D.C. Council members, saying it didn't make sense for them to get larger pay increases than military and civilian government employees.
Similarly, Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) said he was willing to take out the provision allowing the Rock Creek cell towers if it would hasten progress on the city's budget. On that basis, the House removed the provision from its bill that passed Thursday. But yesterday, senators kept the measure in their bill.
"He still is hopeful it will be kept in the bill," Daschle's spokeswoman, Renit Schmelzer, said yesterday. "However, he doesn't want to hold up the process either."
The two issues will be taken up by a conference committee of lawmakers from both houses, which probably will meet next week to try to come up with a final budget that President Clinton won't veto. The District is operating under a temporary spending resolution that expires Thursday.
Other key changes in the bill would:
* Allow private clinics such as Whitman-Walker--rather than the D.C. government--to distribute clean needles to addicts.
* Permit the D.C. mayor, school superintendent and financial control board to determine a new cap on fees for lawyers who represent students in lawsuits against the D.C. school system's troubled special-education program.
Also yesterday, a consultant's report concluded that Bell Atlantic Mobile needs better cellular telephone coverage in Rock Creek Park but could achieve that with one antenna tower rather than the two it has proposed.
But more towers are likely in the park as Bell Atlantic's competitors seek clearer cellular telephone service, the consultant said in a report to the National Capital Planning Commission.
The commission, the federal government's planning agency for the region, is scheduled Nov. 4 to consider allowing Bell Atlantic Mobile to build the towers.
The consultant, Comp Comm Inc., of Voorhees, N.J., said that "while Bell Atlantic Mobile can make a clear case that they do not provide suitable service to the park from their existing sites, they fail to make a compelling . . . argument for locating two sites in the park."
The consultant's report "is a small victory in a long process to provide additional coverage in Rock Creek Park," Bell Atlantic Mobile spokeswoman Andrea Linskey said. She added that the company believes two towers are needed.
The park's valleys and trees inhibit cellular calls; nearby residents and conservationists say the towers would be intrusive.