A national child-care bill is necessary, says Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, to ensure that the nation's children are spared street lessons.

Speaking on a variety of issues to an overflow crowd at Provo's City Council chambers, Hatch said the drug problem could be minimized if children are properly cared for. The number of single-parent families and families where both parents work is cause for child-care legislation."In the United States, 57 percent of all mothers work outside the home, most of them because they have to," he said. "Is Utah any different? We're above the national average for the number of mothers who work."

Hatch has received criticism from those normally allied with him on most issues - the conservative right. Rep. Howard Nielson recently told Utah County Republicans to attempt to convince Hatch that he's wrong.

Despite criticism - some of which also came from the Provo meeting - Hatch remains firm in his belief that child-care legislation is vital.

"I think this is one of the most important issues in America today."

Hatch also defended his stance against efforts by Senate Democrats and President Bush to make some assault weapons illegal.

"I have no problem banning the AK-47, as long as we don't ban legitimate sportsman weapons," he said.

Two bills are under consideration in the Senate, one sponsored by Sen. Howard Metzenbaum, D-Ohio, and another, less restrictive, by Sen. Dennis DeConcini, D-Ariz. Hatch is opposed to both, saying the DeConcini bill isn't much better than Metzenbaum's. Both bills, according to Hatch, would severely restrict the right of legitimate gun owners to keep those weapons.

"If you see a Metzenbaum bill, you're automatically suspicious, because he's no friend of the NRA, and he's for all-out gun control. Nobody's going to mug a little old lady if she pulls out a .357 and blasts them."

Hatch also said he supports pay raises for federal judges, but opposed raises for members of Congress. "We lose a lot of qualified judges, because they can make eight or nine times what they're making by going to the private sector."

He said Congress doesn't deserve a raise because it hasn't done its job of balancing the budget. He said there needs to be an amendment to the constitution requiring a balanced budget. Chances for a line-item veto ever gaining the approval of Congress are slim. "There isn't a chance in the world of ever getting a line-item veto, because the legislative branch won't grant that power to the executive branch."

Hatch admitted he made a mistake by voting for a catastrophic health insurance bill, which one meeting attendee said doubled his health insurance costs.

He also called on residents to support Geneva Steel and defended Lt. Col. Oliver North.