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Legislative Conflict Looms Over Final Retirement Bill

By Jonathan D. Ratner

U.S. House and Senate conferees appear headed for confrontation this Tuesday over whether to exempt tenured college faculty from the final version of the mandatory retirement bill.

The Senate Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a version of the bill that includes the exemption, clearing the way for the conference committee meeting.

Robert Weiner, staff director of the House Committee on Aging, said yesterday House conferees "plan to stand firm" in opposing all exemptions from the bill raising from 65 to 70 years the age at which employers may force their workers to retire.

A member of the staff of Sen. John H. Chafee (R-R.I.), sponsor of the Senate version of the bill, said yesterday preserving the exemption is "not going to be easy, but we're going into the conference committee with a strong Senate side" in favor of the exemption.

The Chafee staff member said nine out of the ten Senate conferees support the exemption.

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The exemption issue has sparked controversy at universities across the country. Administrators have overwhelmingly supported the exemption, stating it would enable universities to continue to renew their faculties with younger academics.

Faculties have split over the issue, with older tenured professors tending to support the exemption provision.

James Perks, a White House spokesman, said yesterday President Carter will take no position on the faculty exemption issue prior to the conference committee meeting.

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Carter, in a letter to Chatee last month, reaffirmed his campaign support for raising mandatory retirement ceilings, and endorsed the concept of providing exemptions from the bill "where age has been found to be an important indicator of job performance."

Congressional staffers said they expect the conference committee bill will return to the floor for a final vote before the election recess.

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