Balance Sheet



Faith Healing. The Connecticut Supreme Court says patients can't be forced against their will or their religious beliefs to accept life-saving treatments. Jehovah's Witness Nelly Vega entered Stamford Hospital to give birth. When she started bleeding profusely, doctors gave her a blood transfusion even though she and her husband had signed a release form refusing any transfusion on religious grounds. The Supreme Court ruling cites Vega's "common law right of bodily self-determination."

Unplugged. California's Air Resources Board scraps a plan that would require 2 percent of all new cars sold in 1998 to be "zero-emission" (that is, electric) vehicles. Auto makers must instead develop new electric prototypes and research better battery technologies. One time bomb remains: The ARB still wants 10 percent of all cars sold in 2003 to be electric.

Rule Braking. An obscure provision in the budget package signed by the president may offer some regulatory relief. When an agency issues a new rule, it must now wait 60 days before enforcing it. During the waiting period, individuals, businesses, and governments can ask Congress to overturn the regulation rather than having to sue the agency after the rule takes effect.

Busted! Laughter, the best medicine? The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission drops its four-year investigation (and proposed $22 million fine) against Hooters. The restaurant chain's $1 million ad campaign ridiculing the EEOC's demand to hire "Hooters' Guys" causes the feds to quietly disappear.


Market Failures. Three heroes of the "rightsizing government" movement embrace tax-financed sports facilities. Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith backs public funding for a new Market Square Arena. New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani scrambles to give George Steinbrenner land and money for the Yankees. And Massachusetts Gov. William Weld backs higher tourist taxes to pay for a new home for the Patriots. Only Virginia Gov. George Allen stands firm, demanding that any outside money for a Northern Virginia baseball stadium come from ticket taxes or other fan-generated user fees.

Card Game. Get ready for your retina scan. The Senate retains provisions in the immigration bill that would establish "pilot" employment verifications systems (a.k.a. worker registries) and force states to make birth certificates and drivers' licenses tamper-proof. (See "Bringing the Border War Home," Oct.) Since the House bill would also establish a "voluntary" verification program, some type of national employment data base appears inevitable.

Free Net. The Federal Communications Commission has collected $20 billion from auctioning part of the broadcast spectrum for commercial wireless licenses. Now the FCC wants to once again give the spectrum away. The agency wants to set aside frequencies so that schools, libraries, and hospitals can get on the Internet without paying the phone company. Direct subsidies for phone service would probably be cheaper and could prevent future spectrum giveaways to, say, homeless shelters, charitable foundations, or political advocacy groups.

ClintonCare Jr. The House-passed version of the Kennedy-Kassebaum health care bill includes civil and criminal sanctions much like those in the president's Health Security Act. The American Association of Physicians and Surgeons points out that the House bill sets $10,000 fines for offering any medical procedure or service "that a person knows or should know is not medically necessary." Anyone convicted of committing a "federal health care offense" also faces asset forfeiture.