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Reagan Pocket Vetoes Children's-Television Bill

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Washington--President Reagan has vetoed a bill that would have restricted the amount of advertising permitted during children's television programs.

Supporters of the measure, which enjoyed strong bipartisan support in the Congress, denounced the President's action.

By 1990, the measure would have allowed broadcasters to air no more than 10.5 minutes of commercials during each weekend hour of children's programming, and 12 minutes an hour on weekdays.

It also would have required broadcasters to provide educational programming as a condition for license renewal.

Mr. Reagan exercised a "pocket veto" by failing to take action on the bill by Nov. 5. The Constitution allows a President to kill a bill during times when the Congress is not in session by declining to sign the measure within 10 days of receiving it.

"The Constitution simply does not empower the federal government to oversee the programming decisions of broadcasters in the manner described by this bill," Mr. Reagan said in a statement.

Veto Blasted

"This is an unbelievable decision," said Peggy Charren, president of Action for Children's Television, a Cambridge, Mass.-based advocacy group that was a major force in winning Congressional approval of the measure.

Assailing the veto as "another example of ideological child abuse in the Reagan Administration," she said the rejection flew in the face of wide-ranging support for the measure.

The House had voted 328 to 78 to pass the bill, after sponsors agreed to drop relatively controversial provisions barring "program-length commercials" for toys and other products and requiring broadcasters to air one hour of educational programming each week. (See Education Week, June 15, 1988.)

The Senate approved the bill by voice vote last month.

Citing the broad popularity of the bill, which was backed by lobbyists for the broadcast industry, Ms. Charren said that "you have to be some kind of nut not to sign a piece of legislation that has that kind of history."

The most outspoken opponent of the legislation was Dennis R. Patrick, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. The fcc abolished advertising limits four years ago, as part of its campaign for deregulation of the broadcasting industry.

Mr. Patrick said the bill was "both unnecessary and ill-advised" because the commission has undertaken new efforts to regulate children's programming.

Ms. Charren expressed the hope that the bill will pass the Congress again next year, and fare better at the hands of President Bush.

"I think the industry would be hard-pressed to say, 'We supported it last time, but we can't support it now,"' she said. "And even if it is vetoed, we'll have Congress around to override the veto."

Measures Signed into Law

In other action, the President signed the following bills:

National Science Foundation. The bill reauthorizes the nsf for five years and allows funding to climb from $2.05 billion in 1989 to $3.5 billion in 1993, with the largest funding boost going to science and engineering education. It also establishes a program to modernize academic research facilities.

Education of the Handicapped Act. The legislation makes technical corrections to the act and addresses some problems with the implementation of the preschool special-education program passed in 1986.

Aids Education. The measure provides at least $165 million a year for 3 years for state grants to carry out aids-prevention programs. Funded projects can include prevention-education training for school administrators and other educational personnel, as well as educational programs for students.

The bill also authorizes at least $105 million a year for three years for national information campaigns and an annual $100 million for two years for aids testing and counseling.

Lead. The bill would allow up to $66 million for efforts to screen infants for high blood levels of lead. It would also force manufacturers of water coolers to recall all models with lead or lead-lined tanks.

Radon. The bill would authorize $42 million in grants to states over the next three years to help reduce levels of the cancer-causing gas in homes and schools.

Bills Awaiting Approval

Another bill awaiting a Presidential signature would bar elementary schools from using art supplies that are considered to be hazardous to children and contain the "Keep Out of Reach of Children" label. The measure requires all art materials to be uniformly labeled for possible hazards.

The omnibus antidrug bill is also awaiting the President's signature. It would expand drug-education programs and eliminate student-aid eligibility for some people convicted of drug-related crimes.

The tax-corrections bill, which would delay for one year the possible taxation of fringe benefits offered to superintendents and other high-paid employees had also not been signed by the President as of last week.

That measure would allow interest on U.S. Savings Bonds to be tax exempt for families with incomes below $60,000, if the earnings were used to pay for college tuition.

Staff Writers Ellen Flax and Reagan Walker contributed to this report.

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