Ophthalmologists don't like optometrists. And optometrists say their medical counterparts are so prejudiced they can't see straight.

And the long-time adversaries squared off again Wednesday - an annual rite of the Legislature - as a House Business and Labor Committee approved a bill that would expand the scope of optometry to allow optometrists to prescribe drugs and treat eye injuries under limited circumstances."Your mother can prescribe more drugs than your optometrist can under existing Utah law," said Rep. Jerrold Jensen, R-Salt Lake, one of 26 cosponsors of HB168.

Optometrists argued they have four years of specialized training, including hands-on experience with administering drugs and treating eye injuries. Ophthalmologists, on the other hand, argued that optometrists are not trained under proper medical supervision and that residency programs for optometrists are insufficient to guarantee the public safety.

"You don't learn about eye disease and its problems from textbooks," said ophthalmologist Dr. Merrill Oaks, adding their "lack of experience shows."

"We have an adequate health-care system in Utah," added Dr. Robert M. Christensen, president of the Utah Ophthalmological Society. "Why do we want to jeopardize the health of our citizens?"

Twenty-five other states, including Idaho and Colorado, have allowed optometrists to expand their services to treatment of eye disease and injuries. There are about 180 optometrists in Utah and about 80 ophthalmologists.