A "fascinating winter" on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., has Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., sponsoring child-care legislation that has the support of one senator from the other side of the aisle, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

The legislation, for which Hatch has received criticism from other members of the Utah delegation, would benefit more parents than the plan offered by President Bush, Dodd said.The Connecticut senator, visiting Utah on a ski vacation, spoke to Brigham Young University law students Monday about the child-care bill and about the current state of Central America.

Dodd said his child-care bill has 45 co-sponsors in the Senate. His bill goes further than the president's bill, which would give tax credits to low-income families with children.

Dodd said fewer than 2 percent of the people who need this type of legislation would fall into that category. He said he is encouraged, however, that both sides are trying to come up with a child-care program. "The good news is we're beyond the threshold question about whether we ought to be doing anything."

The child-care package he proposes takes into account families with a higher income and more children and ensures that the money allocated for child care is actually used for child care. Dodd said the Bush tax credit would not be enough money for a year's worth of child care and would not ensure that the money was being used for the child.

Dodd's bill would call for minimum standards for centers providing care to children of program recipients. He said he finds it "mystifying" that anyone would fight that issue. "I would presume that there would be a near riot if someone would stand up in the U.S. Senate and propose that we eliminate standards for toys or food. . . . The standards are minimum health and safety standards."

He said child-care legislation is necessary because the structure of the American family has changed. Only one in 10 American families has the husband working and the wife at home, said Dodd. "The sort of Ozzie and Harriet, June Cleaver, Ward Cleaver model has disappeared."

On other issues, Dodd said Central America was given too much priority under the Reagan administration, and he praised Bush for preliminary signs that the region will be put into different perspective.

"Central America should not be the dominant issue in the Western Hemisphere," he said. "U.S. and Mexican relations are far more important than what goes on in Nicaragua. . . . I don't minimize the importance of Central American issues. . . . I don't believe it has deserved or deserves the degree and the intensity of attention that it has in the last six or eight years. It became almost a matter of theology rather than of foreign affairs."

Dodd said some on the extreme left and extreme right will never be happy with the situation in that region, but it appears the Bush administration's view of Central America will allow it to stabilize.

"We see a guy like Yeltsin being elected in the Soviet Union, something that no one would have believed possible just a few short years ago, then there certainly is reason to believe that things are going to keep opening up inside Nicaragua."