Senate Extends Tax Breaks

The Senate yesterday approved an $8.5 billion tax package that would renew a number of expiring tax breaks for businesses and families through 2000.

The bill, passed by unanimous consent, would have to be reconciled with a $23 billion House version that extends the tax breaks for five years. Both bills would extend business tax breaks for research and development as well as for hiring welfare recipients and young people in poor areas. They would also reduce the number of families who would otherwise be subject to the alternative minimum tax.

IRS's Y2K Confidence

Although the Internal Revenue Service faces some year 2000 computer trouble spots, "we do not anticipate a major failure," IRS chief technology officer Paul J. Cosgrave told a House hearing.

Rep. Constance A. Morella (R-Md.), who chaired the hearing, expressed concern that IRS continues to have trouble tracking its computer inventory, an important step in ensuring that Y2K fixes have been made to equipment and software.

Cosgrave acknowledged that IRS has struggled for years to keep track of more than 800,000 pieces of technology--from desktop computers to multiple versions of software--but said the agency would conduct a "wall-to-wall inventory" before Dec. 31 at major field offices and would bring in an outside contractor to review Y2K compliance.

Labor 'Partnerships' Backed

In a memorandum to Cabinet departments and federal agencies, President Clinton reaffirmed his support for a six-year-old executive order designed to improve labor-management relations in the government.

The executive order expanded the influence of unions in federal agencies and created "partnership councils" through which unions and federal officials can discuss workplace differences. But a number of agencies ignored major provisions of the order, fearing it would slow decisions or undercut management rights.

Clinton directed federal agencies to develop a plan for complying with the executive order and to report on their progress by April.

EPA Denied Rehearing

A divided U.S. Court of Appeals rejected a request by the Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider a ruling that struck down the agency's tough new national air pollution standards.

Of the 11 judges on the appeals court, five voted to rehear the case--one vote short of what the EPA needed for review.

An appeals court panel, by a 2-1 vote, ruled May 14 that the clean air law provision on which the EPA relied in coming up with the rules two years ago was an "unconstitutional delegation of legislative power."

Rep. Barrett to Retire

Nebraska Republican Rep. Bill Barrett, 70, said he will retire next year after five terms.

"I've decided that I'm at a point in my life where I'd rather start my day with 'Good morning, Grandpa!' instead of 'Good morning, Congressman!'," Barrett said in a statement.