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Copyright 1999 The San Diego Union-Tribune  
The San Diego Union-Tribune

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May 21, 1999, Friday

SECTION: OPINION Pg. B-13:7,8; B-15:2

LENGTH: 1104 words


Just one more busy day for Sacramento legislators

Until I thoroughly read your May 19 paper, I wasn't really aware of how hard our legislators work, or the depth of the decisions they are called upon to make.

Though it was a short business day in Sacramento to give legislators an opportunity to listen to Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, they still found time to debate and table a law which would have repealed the state's motorcycle helmet law. Then, feeling they had not accomplished enough, they boldly took up the battle against years of bureaucratic actions that have made the ferret illegal in the state. This attempt by the legislators was especially commendable, since ferrets or ferret owners cannot be counted among the major contributors to political coffers.

On the federal level, it was an even more hectic day. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt approved a plan to protect not only the Florida panther but the blue tail mole skunk and other endangered plants and animals in the Everglades. This came on the heels of another federal action allowing Indians in Washington state to kill a whale for food for the first time in 75 years.

Then, too, the National Marine Fisheries Service wants to hold a hearing on the government's designation of critical habitat necessary for the continued survival of the California steelhead trout population. One problem, though, is that not everyone concerned is in concert on whether the fish to be protected are indeed steelhead trout or another species.

After making so many monumental decisions in a single work day, I find it much easier to support the claims that public servants are underpaid. HANK GASTRICH El Cajon

Make contraceptive coverage part of insurance policies

Re: "Insurers vs. women" (Editorial, May 14):

Your editorial outlining the hypocrisy of health insurance companies and their exclusion of contraceptive drugs and devices from their prescription drug policy hits the nail on the head.

I have been working on legislation at a federal level which would rectify this situation. It only makes sense and proves equitable to women if, under their basic health care plan, contraceptive drugs are treated in the same way as all other prescription drugs under health care policies.

FDA-approved contraceptives have a proven track record of protecting the health of women, preventing unintended pregnancies and reducing the need for abortion. If cost is a factor, then maybe one should consider the fact that the pill costs about $300 a year, whereas one unwanted birth costs about $4, 000. Plus, cost analysis has shown that if health insurance polices were to include coverage for contraceptive drugs and services, annual cost increases would be minimal, only about $16 per enrollee.

Last year, Congress passed a law that ensures contraceptive coverage will be provided to women enrolled in the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program in 1999. This year, I am working with my colleagues in a bipartisan manner toward extending this vital coverage to all women, not just federal employees, by supporting The Equity in Prescription Insurance and Contraceptive Coverage Act (EPICC). This bill simply seeks to establish parity for contraceptive prescriptions within the context of coverage already guaranteed by each insurance plan.

It is imperative that contraceptive drugs and devices be part of the basic health care for women, and I will continue to work toward making this a reality. Rep. BRIAN BILBRAY Washington, D.C.

Shallow nuclear waste burial promotes incidence of cancer

Re: "A test for Davis" (Editorial, May 14):

With the demise of the ill-conceived proposal io bury radioactive waste in Ward Valley, it is time for the Union-Tribune to advocate for a congressional revisit of the Radioactive Waste Policy Act.

Under the current system of classification, the nuclear power plants in the four states authorized to dump in California would contribute more than 90 percent of the total radioactivity. Unlike the medical and biotech wastes portrayed in your editorial, the dangerous and long-lived wastes generated by the fission process pose an unacceptable long-term danger to public safety and the environment. By focusing on the volume of waste, rather than its radioactivity, you ignore the fatal and glaring flaw of the policy act: Without exception, every radioactive element found in the high-level waste stream is also present in the low-level waste stream.

Applying pressure to Gov. Gray Davis to perpetuate the litany of leaking and failed radioactive waste dumps experienced by the states of Illinois, Kentucky and Nevada is misguided and a disservice to your readership. Rather than properly contain the waste, crude and unlined shallow-pit burial of radioactive waste, such as the Ward Valley proposal and its failed predecessors, serve to promote the incidence of cancer due to off-site migration of the waste. Once reclassification is accomplished, monitorable and retrievable storage facilities must be at the heart of any new plan to address the issue of the radioactive waste of California and its compact partners. MIKE MATHEWS Save Ward Valley Coalition San Diego

You state, "The Clinton administration has refused to give California the federal land for the depository because it fears radioactive materials might leak from the dump into the Colorado River 20 miles away."

Isn't there a huge pile of radioactive mine tailings in Moab, Utah, that is immediately adjacent to the Colorado River? And if my memory serves me right, the federal government is willing to let the mining company just cap the pile and let it continue leaching radioactive materials into the river. Interesting. LYN COFFER San Diego

Does end justify means in ballot statements?

Re: "Foes of failed library sales tax lose suit" (B-section, May 14):

So now it's OK to misrepresent the facts on your sample ballot statement, as long as your side wins?

A judge decides that the successful opponents of the proposed sales tax increase to benefit libraries must pay $14,307 in attorney fees because they prepared a "false and misleading" sample ballot statement. And what is Libertarian Richard Rider's response? He says that in the scheme of things, $14,000 is a small price to pay to help defeat a $423 million tax increase.

I take it Rider believes that the end justifies the means and that honesty and fairness have less value than winning. While the judge's decision has not dented the group's pocketbook, perhaps it has put a dent in its credibility. CYNTHIA L. SHAMEL Poway


LOAD-DATE: May 22, 1999

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