Balance Sheet



? Equality Time. California Gov. Pete Wilson ends race- and gender-based contracting in the Golden State. A March 10 executive order ends all goals and preferences for awarding construction contracts to firms that are owned by women or members of racial minorities. Contracts awarded after March 10 were scrapped and will be rebid "solely on the basis of the individual merits of the bid."

? Bottoms Up. Raise your glasses, federalists: Congress temporarily refuses to tighten the national standard for drunk driving. A proposal to cut federal highway funds to states that don't cut their blood-alcohol threshold to 0.08 percent is excluded from the House version of the highway bill.

? Tube Triumph. The Federal Communications Commission rules that personal computers aren't TV sets (duh) and can't be forced to incorporate V-chips in their circuitry. The ruling also ends the prospect that the FCC would try to impose sex, language, or violence ratings on the Internet.

? Flight Upgrades. The United States and France agree to deregulate air travel between the two countries. Passenger flights will expand by 40 percent in June, price controls will end in two years, and the frequency of flights will be completely set by consumer demand within five years. Shipping to Europe should also get cheaper, as the agreement lets FedEx dramatically expand its hub in Paris.


? System Crash. As if Microsoft didn't have enough trouble with the feds, 11 states prepare to bring antitrust actions against the software giant. (See "Creative Insecurity," January.) California, New York, and Texas are among the states pushing the Justice Department to sock Microsoft before it releases Windows 98.

? Illegal Fees. Are Bill Clinton's pecadilloes lightening your wallet? Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.) says the White House counsel's staff has expanded from four in 1993 to as many as 100 today. Campbell claims the office illegally uses tax money to perform personal legal work for the Clintons. The White House concedes that 19 attorneys work full time in the counsel's office and additional lawyers are "on loan" from other federal agencies.

? Fright Night. Better get that Freddy Krueger costume out of mothballs: A bill sponsored by Sen. Al D'Amato (R-N.Y.) would reclassify imported Halloween costumes as wearing apparel, subjecting them to punitive tariffs. The bill would give a near-monopoly to Long Island-based Rubie Costumes Co., the nation's largest maker of under-$15 outfits.

? Tribal Thunder. Cleveland Indians owner Richard Jacobs hopes to raise more than $60 million by selling shares of stock in baseball's most profitable franchise. But Jacobs, who will retain 99.9 percent of the voting shares, will use none of this money to pay down the debt on the taxpayer-financed Jacobs Field, which has cost the locals more than $200 million.