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FEINSTEIN URGES WELFARE LAW ALTERATION TO SUIT STATE.

Byline: Marc Sandalow San Francisco Chronicle

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Thursday that the state is incapable of complying with the new federal welfare law and said changing the legislation is one of her top priorities in the next Congress.

Feinstein - who voted against the welfare bill last summer - said her office has spoken to nearly half of California's 58 county welfare directors. They warned of numerous problems with the law, from difficulties providing enough jobs and day care to their inability to set up a computer system to track their progress.

``The mandate cannot be met by California,'' she said. ``The numbers are too great for California.''

Feinstein made her dire predictions during a breakfast meeting with reporters, in which she outlined an ambitious agenda for the next Congress - from balancing the budget, cracking down on gangs, enacting campaign finance reform and a constitutional amendment for crime victims, to possibly moving election day from Tuesday to Saturday.

The California Democrat said she is still ``conflicted'' over whether to run for governor in 1998, and repeated her intention not to announce a decision for perhaps one more year.

``It would be a great thrill,'' she said of the prospects of becoming governor. ``I would love to work with (new Assembly Speaker) Cruz Bustamante.'' (Bustamante, she later acknowledged, no longer would be serving in the Assembly due to term limits.)

At the same time, she said she enjoys her work as a senator and is tired of campaigns after running three statewide races in the past six years.

There has been a recent flurry of Democrats expressing interest in succeeding Gov. Pete Wilson. Outgoing White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta said he would return to California and explore his own candidacy. Other Democrats interested in the job are Lt. Gov. Gray Davis, state Controller Kathleen Connell and Northwest Airlines co-chairman Alfred Checchi.

``I think he'd be a good candidate,'' Feinstein said of Panetta, wondering aloud how well he would do in parts of the state where he is not well known.

Looking ahead to the next year in the Senate, Feinstein said she will:

Prepare a series of amendments to the welfare bill - some technical and some more substantive - to ease the burden on California and help the state comply with some of the requirements.

The new law, passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton last summer, allows states great flexibility on how to administer welfare programs. At the same time, it ends the federal government's commitment to pick up the tab, offering states limited amounts of money, and tying some funds to the state's ability to provide jobs and day care.

Push a ``victims' rights'' amendment to the Constitution to require courts to notify victims of critical legal proceedings, prison release dates and other pertinent information on their assailants.

Pursue an expansion of federal racketeering laws to help prosecutors go after gangs.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 6, 1996
Words:484
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