Winners and losers in General Assembly;90-day session: Anti-smoking, gun-control advocates gain; city schools and drug programs set back.


PRESIDENT CLINTON will be at his side today as Gov. Parris N. Glendening signs the nation's first mandatory handgun safety-lock law. It marks the governor's biggest victory in the just-concluded 2000 General Assembly session.

Mr. Glendening saw nearly all of his legislative package approved. Ambitious anti-smoking programs and state funding for anti-cancer research shared the spotlight. And he won his fight to prod counties to give raises to teachers, with the state chipping in.. He again produced a $250 million school construction budget.

If school contractors were happy, teachers had mixed feelings. Yes, new buildings are on the way and there could be more take-home pay. But that could lead to fewer textbooks and supplies as public schools shift priorities to pay for higher teacher pay.

The state school board also lost ground: The governor rejected its $49 million plan to require graduation tests and to intervene early when pupils show learning difficulties. The board got $12 million to begin helping middle-school kids who are falling behind, but what about elementary schoolers?

Public education took another hit when Mr. Glendening diverted $6 million to parochial and private schools. That money could have helped close the classroom-material gap in public schools.

And Baltimore's education woes got little sympathy from the governor. He ignored the city's request for $25 million to expand pre-kindergarten programs and put computers in classrooms.

Mr. Glendening also gave the city only a fraction of the money requested to combat drug addiction, a major reason for Baltimore's high crime and violence rate.

There were no victories in legislative efforts to reform the state's discredited Department of Juvenile Justice, either. Once the governor found a new secretary to overhaul the department, he lost interest in legislating sweeping -- and long-needed -- changes.

The governor's objectives were modest. He triumphed much of the time. Lawmakers performed responsibly on most matters. But state leaders didn't come to grips with the crises in schools, on drug corners and in juvenile camps. These major failings mar the achievements of the past 90 days.

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