GOP Leaders Appoint

Terror Bill Negotiators

House Republican leaders yesterday chose a small but powerful group of negotiators to meet with senators to decide the fate of legislation in response to the Sept. 11 commission's terror-fighting recommendations.

The Republicans named as negotiators were Intelligence Committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra (Mich.), Armed Services Chairman Duncan Hunter (Calif.), International Relations Chairman Henry J. Hyde (Ill.), Majority Whip Roy Blunt (Mo.) and Rules Chairman David Dreier (Calif.).

The Democrats are Democratic Caucus Chairman Robert Menendez (N.J.), Jane Harman (Calif.) and Ike Skelton (Mo.).

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) named Governmental Affairs Chairman Susan Collins (Maine), Intelligence Chairman Pat Roberts (Kan.) and Rules Chairman Trent Lott (Miss.) to the Senate panel.

They are joined by GOP Sens. George V. Voinovich (Ohio), Norm Coleman (Minn.), John E. Sununu (N.H.) and Mike DeWine (Ohio), as well as Democratic Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.), Carl M. Levin (Mich.), Richard J. Durbin (Ill.), John D. Rockefeller IV (W.Va.), Bob Graham (Fla.) and Frank Lautenberg (N.J).

House and Senate leaders hope to get something to the president to sign before Election Day, but there are only two full working weeks before then.

Bill Would Allow Kids

To Administer Medicine

Schools would be encouraged to allow asthmatic schoolchildren to carry and administer their own medication under a bill passed by Congress and sent to the president for his signature.

The bill, approved by the Senate on Monday before it recessed for the election, urges states to pass "right-to-carry" legislation and directs the secretary of Health and Human Services to give preferences to states with such laws when he awards grants for asthma-related programs.

Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) said when the bill passed the House last week that the zero-tolerance drug movement had "the unintended consequence of depriving students of immediate access to their prescribed medication."

In many states, students are required to keep inhalers and other medication either with their teachers or at the nurse's office.

Medicaid Costs Outpace

Education for States

The cost of Medicaid continues to grow faster than any other portion of state spending, overtaking primary education for the first time and forcing reductions in welfare and other assistance, according to a report released yesterday by the nation's governors and budget officers.

Even as state economies, on average, improved in the past year after a long spell of red ink, Medicaid and other health care costs gobbled up nearly all the new money -- and will continue to do so, officials said. Medicaid is the joint state-federal health care program for the poor.

Among its conclusions, the report found:

* Medicaid costs for states grew at 6 percent last year, the fiscal year that ended for most states in June, faster than any other state category. It is expected to grow at 4.6 percent this year, and at 12.1 percent next year.

* Medicaid is estimated at 21.9 percent of total state spending this year, with K-12 education at 21.5 percent.

* Overall, states increased general fund spending by 1.4 percent last year, and were estimated to raise spending by 2.4 percent this year (those figures do not include federal spending; together, total spending rose 4.5 percent each year).

-- From News Services