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Snow White to Terrorism--Congressmen's Agendas

October 08, 1987|ALAN C. MILLER | Times Staff Writer

A bill to save the threatened African elephant by prohibiting the import of ivory and other pachyderm parts is included on the congressional agenda of Rep. Anthony C. Beilenson (D-Los Angeles).

A measure to open the door for Americans to travel to Cuba, Vietnam and any other country against which the United States has imposed an economic embargo is being sought by Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Panorama City).

And a resolution designating last July 13 to 20 as "Snow White Week" to commemorate the 50th birthday of the beleaguered but virtuous princess of Walt Disney's first full-length animated film was pushed through Congress by U. S. Rep. Carlos J. Moorhead (R-Glendale).

These three pieces of legislation are among two dozen diverse measures sponsored by San Fernando Valley-area legislators in the first nine months of the 100th Congress. The initiatives generally deal with national issues--from excise taxes to copyright laws--rather than local concerns.

Reflect Their Interests

The bills also reflect the legislators' interests and roles in Congress.

Beilenson, a reform-minded Democrat with a reputation for getting out front on difficult issues, is sponsoring several measures likely to antagonize large blocs of voters.

Berman, a liberal Democrat and member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has introduced bills to expand travel rights and the free flow of information between Americans and countries at odds with the United States.

Not surprisingly in a House controlled by a large Democratic majority, the Republican from Glendale has a more modest legislative agenda.

Moorhead has concentrated on matters he has brought before the Judiciary Committee and the Energy and Commerce Committee, on which he serves as a ranking minority member.

Most of the proposed laws are pending before various House committees.

Only the innocuous "Snow White Week" resolution, which had 218 co-sponsors, has traversed the legislative Black Forest of the House and Senate and been signed by President Reagan. Still, because of legislative delays, it did not go into effect until July 21--the day after "Snow White Week" ended.

Such a lack of results at this stage is not unusual, however, in an institution that often appears determined to pass no law before its time. Congress generally creeps along until adjournment approaches and then rushes to pass a flurry of bills. Even then, most proposed laws never make it through the legislative labyrinth.

A total of 3,362 bills and 833 resolutions have been introduced by the 435 House members by last week, according to the House clerk's office. Only 115 have become law.

A few of the bills sponsored by Valley representatives already appear dead. Others have been revived after failing to move in previous years or being vetoed by Reagan.

The bills include controversial proposals by Beilenson to slash the budget deficit by raising gasoline, cigarette and liquor taxes and by Berman to permit victims of terrorist acts in America sponsored by foreign governments to collect monetary damages.

In addition, Moorhead has sponsored a bill to prohibit importation into the United States of products produced by a process that is protected by an American patent and a measure to expand copyright protection for industrial designs of such items as telephones, luggage and automotive parts.

Role of Amendments Cited

Further, Valley representatives said, focusing on legislation they have sponsored can be misleading. They may, for instance, insert significant amendments into other bills that appear headed for passage, persuade more senior members to sponsor their initiatives and play key roles in legislative negotiations or in the behind-the-scenes work of House committees.

"My bills are a relatively minor part of my legislative agenda," said Berman, a savvy legislative infighter. "Our amendments to other bills in many cases are more meaningful."

Berman has introduced an amendment to the foreign aid bill to reauthorize $5 million for joint scientific research projects with Israel and Third World countries. The program, sponsored by Berman since 1984, focuses on agricultural food production and public health and has helped "reduce Israel's isolation in the Third World," Berman said.

Berman also has three amendments in a massive trade bill that has passed the House. One would establish a Western regional office in California for the Commerce Department's export licensing, which Berman said will expedite the processing of West Coast export applications.

Another provision would prohibit the Commerce Department from detaining goods for export at a port for more than 10 days when a valid export license has been issued. Goods are now sometimes held for several weeks, Berman said.

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