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Graham takes his 'Tension' on the road

By Washington Journal

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 23, 2000

With rumors saying he might be picked as Al Gore's running mate, Sen. Bob Graham told a Nashville audience a week ago that he was indeed seeking a new job -- as a country and western singer. He then sang a few verses from his original song, Tension on the Surface.

* * *

"I've got tension on the surface

But I'm boiling just below

Because of you, hon'

Because of you, hon'

* * *

I was cruising through my life

On an ocean smooth and still

When your storm surge of love

Came and wiped away my will."

* * *

Graham got a warm response from the Democrats in the crowd, so the next day, when he saw two guys carrying guitars in the Nashville airport, he stopped them and asked about the song.

"Have you heard of Tension on the Surface?" he asked.

The men -- one of them was Darryl Worley, a rising country star -- had not, so Graham sang the song in the middle of the Nashville airport.

Worley, whose single When You Need My Love is high on the country charts, said the song had potential.

Senate offers preventive measures for disasters

Living in the ever-present fear of Mother Nature, the Senate swallowed a dose of preventive medicine Wednesday, passing a bill intended to thwart her wrath and save the government some money too.

The legislation authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency -- the agency in charge of handling natural disaster relief -- to implement pre-disaster programs in local communities that would alleviate damages caused by nature.

The bill, introduced last year by Sen. Bob Graham, is an outgrowth of a FEMA initiative known as "Project Impact," first started in 1997. The project provides $300,000 seed money and technical assistance to roughly 200 communities susceptible to natural disasters -- including Tampa. In Florida, local homeowners and businesses have used the cash to retrofit buildings and install wind shutters.

The Congressional Budget Office projects that the Senate bill will save more than $230-million over the next five years, a figure Democrats, Republicans and non-partisan bureaucrats agree on.

Older Americans Act compromise reached

Senate Republicans have worked out a compromise that could lead to the reauthorization of the 1965 Older Americans Act, which lapsed five years ago.

On Friday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved a bill to reauthorize the law. It followed a compromise worked out between Chairman James M. Jeffords (R-Vt.) and Aging Subcommittee Chairman Mike DeWine (R-Ohio).

Although the law was allowed to lapse in 1995, the programs provided under it have continued to be funded virtually the same levels every year by the Congress. Among the programs is Meals on Wheels.

Under the Senate compromise, the states would be given somewhat more control over the funds that are available for a job training program that places seniors in community service positions. But the Senate version does not give states as much sway as a House-passed measure.

For years, the jobs program has been run largely by 10 non-profit groups including Green Thumb, AARP affiliates and the National Council of Senior Citizens. Some of these groups, such as NCSC, get most of their funding from this source. That is why they have been resisting efforts to have the money go directly to state governments to administer the program.

It is not known when the full Senate will vote on the compromise. After that, a conference committee must be convened to reconcile differences in the House and Senate versions.

- Staff writers Bill Adair, John Balz and Sara Fritz contributed to this column.

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