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“We have a deadline and we’re not going to meet it,” said the Fairfax County Republican, one of the chief budget negotiators. “I’m not optimistic at all.”

Senate Finance Committee Chairman John H. Chichester said he thinks the Senate had met the House halfway.

“We’ve gone as far as we can go,” the Stafford County Republican said.

Mr. Chichester proposed that negotiators work on other details in hopes of a compromise on those. “We’re ready to go to work,” he said.

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The House yesterday watered down and passed a measure intended to crack down on teens who drive while chatting on cell phones.

On a 64-34 vote, the House approved a bill that would ticket motorists younger than 18 for using hand-held cell phones while driving only if they are stopped for another offense.

When Sen. Jay O’Brien’s bill left the Senate, it banned any use of a cellular phone while driving and made it a “primary offense,” sufficient by itself to warrant a traffic ticket.

Mr. O’Brien, Fairfax County Republican, aimed the measure at reducing the number of deadly accidents involving young drivers distracted by telephone calls, voice mails and text messages on their mobile phones.

The House Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee on Friday reduced it to a “secondary offense.” House floor amendments yesterday limited the offense exclusively to the use of hand-held phones, and then only when the car is moving.

That sends the measure back to the Senate, which is likely to reject the amendments and let House and Senate negotiators reconcile sharp differences over the bill.

• • •

The General Assembly yesterday gave final approval to a bill that would give college students more time to shop around for the best prices for textbooks.

The bill requires public colleges to disclose the titles of required books as soon as the campus bookstore receives the list, allowing students more time to shop online and elsewhere.

Supporters said that campus bookstores essentially have a monopoly because students often don’t find out which books they need until it’s too late to shop around.

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