Balance Sheet



? Net Gains. Federal judges say states can't regulate speech in cyberspace. Judge Marvin Shoob strikes down a Georgia law prohibiting anonymous communications over the Internet. And Judge Loretta A. Preska overturns a New York law that barred sending "indecent" e-mail to minors.

? Class Dismissed. Teachers' unions start losing their aura of invincibility. Oregon enacts a bill ending tenure for public elementary and high school educators. Instead of virtual lifetime employment, the state's teachers will receive renewable two-year contracts; principals and other administrators get renewable three-year terms. And reports from the National Education Association's annual meeting in Atlanta suggest that union officials might back away from tenure if teachers get more say over curricula, books, and budgets.

? Bumper Crop. Last year Congress phased out most crop subsidies. Next year look for a serious assault on farm price supports. Reps. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Dan Miller (R-Fla.) will back bills to end the sugar, peanut, and tobacco programs. Reformers also hope to abolish the Market Access Program, which gives American food makers tax dollars to advertise overseas.

? Happy Hour. All hail gridlock: A deadlocked Federal Communications Commission fails to authorize a formal investigation into the effects of TV liquor advertising on children. Speaking for the White House, FCC Chairman Reed Hundt asks, "How can anyone justify curtailing this legitimate inquiry?" Commissioners James Quello and Rachelle Chong say they're plenty justified, arguing that the FCC can't regulate the content of programming or ads.


? Base Closing. Republican presidential contender Steve Forbes thumbs his nose at the "fiscally conservative, socially tolerant" voters who led him to victory in last year's Arizona primary. Americans for Hope, Growth & Opportunity, the advocacy group started by Forbes, runs radio ads opposing a medical marijuana ballot initiative in Washington, D.C. In an AHGO press release, Forbes says those who support the compassionate use of marijuana are guilty of "moral callousness."

? Plant Closing. Want to deny good jobs to African Americans in the rural South? Claim "environmental racism." Run ads in major newspapers and magazines featuring Mel Gibson and a tie-in to his new movie Conspiracy Theory. That's how the EarthJustice Legal Defense Fund attacked the proposed nuclear waste disposal facility in Claiborne Parish, Louisiana. (See "Environmental Injustice," August/September.) As the ads ran, two investors, Graystone Corp. and Northern States Power Co., pulled out of the project.

? Guts Check. Returning this fall: the minimum wage. The Wall Street Journal reports Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and House Minority Whip David Bonior (D-Mich.) will introduce a bill increasing the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour by 2002. Will congressional Republicans get rolled again?

? Channel Blocks. KidCare isn't the only new multibillion-dollar entitlement. The FCC and Congress give every current holder of a broadcast license not one but as many as six free channels for digital telecasts.