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Lawmakers will meet sometime next week to start work on a proposed constitutional amendment to allow prayer at public meetings, a key supporter of the measure said.

"We've got to get it going," said Rep. John Valentine, R-Orem. Valentine was the first legislator to suggest amending the Utah Constitution after a district court ruling banned prayers at Salt Lake City Council meetings.Constitutional amendments must be approved by a two-thirds vote of both houses of the Legislature as well as by a majority of voters in a general election.

To meet the statutory deadline for appearing on the November ballot, the Legislature must approve an amendment before June 5. Gov. Norm Bangerter has called a special session for May 19. But the prayer issue isn't on the agenda yet.

The governor said Thursday during his monthly news conference on KUED that he isn't going to decide whether to put the prayer issue on the agenda until he sees a proposed amendment.

Bangerter doesn't have his own proposal to make but did offer suggestion to lawmakers: "You clearly don't want to go out and mandate that you pray at all public meetings," he said.

The governor said prayers are sometimes offered at his own meetings, including his weekly cabinet council as well as those held at mealtimes. "We don't have a firm pattern that we do it all the time," he said.

Bangerter's chief of staff, Steve Mecham, said he or another member of the governor's staff will likely meet with the committee that legislative leaders assembled when the special session was announced to draft the amendment.

Besides Valentine, members of the committee are House Majority Whip Byron Harward, R-Provo; Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan; and Sen. Fred Finlinson, R-Salt Lake.

Lawmakers became involved in the issue after 3rd District Judge Dennis Frederick ruled in March that the Salt Lake City Council violated the section of the Utah Constitution dealing with the separation of church and state.

The suit was brought by the Utah chapter of the Society of Separationists, which has pledged not to sue other cities that allow prayer at public meetings pending a ruling by the Utah Supreme Court.

Most legislators don't want to wait for that ruling because if the court agrees with Frederick, the Constitution couldn't be changed until the next general election in November 1994.

Legislative bill drafters are awaiting instruction from lawmakers on the prayer amendment. Meanwhile, they are busy drafting legislation for other items that may be on the special session agenda.

Two items are definitely on the agenda: funding for a displaced homemakers program and a tax break for vehicles that operate on clean-burning fuel, such as natural gas.

Funding for the displaced homemakers program was inadvertently dropped from the budget by the 1992 Legislature, and the clean-air bill was invalidated because the House unintentionally failed to agree to a Senate amendment.

Other issues that the governor may add to the agenda include easing the initial penalties for speeders nabbed by photo radar, helping a Moab winery through a tax break and paying for patent work on cold fusion.