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Hot-Button Issues Debated on Capitol Hill

Hot-Button Issues Debated on Capitol Hill

Posted - Jan. 28, 2003 at 4:20 p.m.



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News Specialist John Daley reportingKeeping God in schools and keeping high-level nuclear waste out of Utah are two issues that took center stage on Capitol Hill today as lawmakers continued to debate a variety of topics.

Should Utah high school students be required to say the Pledge of Allegiance weekly? That was the question today in the Senate Education Committee.

Current law encourages, but does not mandate, the Pledge in secondary schools.

Republican Senator Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, is sponsoring the bill requiring a weekly recitation of the Pledge in secondary schools.

But not all those in attendance at today's committee hearing agreed. Chris Allen, representing a group called the Society of Separationists, says the mandatory recitation -- with its statement that America is "one nation under God" -- makes it "official to believe in God."

He says "the government has no right to do that."

But, Senator Buttars replied that the testimony of opponents sends a "chill down your back."

"I believe that those that don't want to talk about God, or those that don't want to pledge to our country their allegiance and look at those as something wrong, they're a very tiny minority," he says.

"But they're making so much noise and we've let them push us around so much, it appears that any time the subject of God or values comes up, we run away and hide. It's time to stop. This is a good place."

Also today, a bill was introduced that would prohibit higher-level radioactive waste from being dumped in Utah.

"When I look at the history of atomic testing, military experiments and industrial pollution that has negatively impacted the health of Utahns, I see the pattern of turning Utah's west desert into one of the nation's largest environmental sacrifice zones," says Rep. Kory Holdaway, R-Taylorsville.

Proponents of accepting the waste argue it can be done safely, and will bring new money into the state.

Another proposal on Capitol Hill would allow police officers to finance their retirement funds by writing traffic tickets.

Senate Minority Leader Mike Dmitrich from Price is sponsoring that bill. He says it would help reduce the speeding problem and fund the retirement system.

Under the bill, a portion of the traffic fines would go to retirement benefits for public safety officers.

Opponents of the proposal say the legislation presents a definite conflict of interest.

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