City Council insiders, outsiders and hangers-on have been buzzing with rumors that a new lead law will emerge from City Council Speaker Peter Vallone's office shortly--if not this week. The talk comes from next week's deadline: On April 30, a reprieve from the courts expires. After that, the health and housing agencies must start enforcing the lead rule currently on the books--a tough abatement law that the city says will cost $100 million annually. An advocates' coalition has repeatedly sued the city for failing to enforce the law while an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 children are poisoned by lead paint each year. The courts agreed, demanding the city either write a new law or start using the current one.

But a Vallone staffer said she would be "surprised" if Friday's court-mandated deadline was met. "We've been talking to the administration to see where we have common goals," said Kathy Cudahy, legislative counsel to Vallone. "We're not quite there yet. I haven't been drafting [a bill]."

The lead speculation picked up steam the week before last, when representatives from the New York Public Interest Research Group on the tenants' side, and the landlord lobby group Rent Stabilization Association were called in by Bruce Bender, Vallone's chief of staff, to debate the issues.

With all this talk, the one thing that's hardly mentioned is Councilman Stanley Michels' perennial bridesmaid lead bill, which has languished in Council without a vote for months. "I don't believe that at this particular moment that anyone in the Council is doing anything," said Steve Simon, Michels' chief of staff. "But who the hell knows. We're always hopeful."