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Democrats, GOP lay out visions in platforms

Policy differences are evident in the parties’ documents

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LOS ANGELES — This week, Democrats convening for their national convention here approved their party platform, which puts in writing the differences between themselves and the Republicans.

Tuesday's action came two weeks after Republicans solidified their 56-page platform during their convention in Philadelphia.

Don Peay is a Utah Democratic delegate who attended some of his party's platform committee meetings in Cleveland last month. A Magna diesel mechanic, Peay said overall he likes the long document's themes of prosperity, progress and peace. But he said it lacked language benefiting labor, which past national platforms had.

Gayle Ruzicka, a Utah delegate who sat on the Republican national platform committee, says while she doesn't like everything in the GOP statement, she's pleased that conservatives like herself were able to keep "a strong anti-abortion" plank in the document. Overall, she says it is a conservative statement without much of the moderate language GOP presidential nominee George W. Bush wanted.

Here are some of the highlighted differences between the two platforms:

TAXES

Republicans: Replace the five current tax brackets with four lower ones, ensuring all taxpayers significant tax relief while targeting especially low-income workers. Help families by doubling the child tax credit to $1,000, making it available to more families, and eliminating the marriage penalty for everyone. Encourage entrepreneurship and growth by capping the top marginal rate, repealing the "death tax" and making permanent the research and development credit. Promote charitable giving and education. Foster capital investment and savings to boost personal-savings.

Democrats: Cut taxes for middle-class only. Help middle-class families save for college, pay for health insurance and affordable child care. Eliminate the marriage penalty for working families. Encourage citizens to care for the elderly, invest in clean cars and clean homes, and save for retirement.

Both parties say the current research and development tax credit should be made permanent, a proposal that Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has been sponsoring.

INTERNET TAXES

Republicans: Permanently ban access taxes and extend the current moratorium on new and discriminatory taxes, which should not prohibit a state from collecting taxes that are currently authorized by law.

Democrats: Keep cyberspace a duty-free zone so that American companies can sell goods around the world and insist that other countries refrain from actions that impede commerce.

EDUCATION:

Republicans: Limit federal government's role. Shrink federal grants into five flexible areas. Raise academic standards through increased local control and accountability to parents. Measure student achievement. Expand parental choice. Give teachers legal protection from meritless lawsuits. Encourage faith-based and community organizations to be involved in after-school programs. Give teachers a special tax deduction for personal income used in buying school supplies. Strongly support student-initiated prayer in schools.

Democrats: Work toward every classroom having a fully qualified teacher who must pass a "rigorous test" to qualify. Ensure that every high school graduate can master basic reading and math. Allow parents to choose the best public school for their child. Make high-quality, affordable preschool available for every child. Promote a national family leave law to ensure parents time away from work to attend vital school meetings/programs. Expand after-school programs through personal tax credits. Work to shut down bad schools. Faith-based organizations should augment, not replace, government programs for drug addiction, juvenile violence and homelessness. Respect First Amendment protections and never use taxpayer money to proselytize or support discrimination.

CHOICE/SEX EDUCATION

Republicans: Replace family planning programs with abstinence education. Oppose school-based clinics that provide referrals or counseling for contraception or abortion. The unborn child has a fundamental individual right that cannot be infringed. Support a human life constitutional amendment. Oppose public funding of abortions.

Democrats: The Democratic Party stands behind the right of every woman to choose, consistent with Roe vs. Wade, regardless of ability to pay. The party supports contraceptive research, family planning, comprehensive family life education and policies that support healthy childbearing.

GAY RIGHTS

Republicans: Marriage is the legal union of one man and one woman. The GOP does not believe sexual preference should be given special legal protection or standing in the law. The platform affirms that homosexuality is incompatible with military service.

Democrats: The party continues to support efforts, such as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, to end workplace discrimination against gay men and lesbians. The platform supports the full inclusion of gay and lesbian families in the life of the nation. This would include an equitable alignment of benefits.

GUNS

Republicans: The GOP defends a constitutional right to bear and keep arms. Although the GOP supports background checks, "We oppose federal licensing of law-abiding gun owners and national gun registration as a violation of the Second Amendment." The party opposes creation of any national identification card.

Democrats: The party advocates mandatory child safety gun locks, photo identification and full background checks and safety tests to buy any handgun. The party believes the country needs more federal gun prosecutors, ATF agents and inspectors and wants to give states 10,000 more prosecutors to fight gun violence. It wants an end to racial profiling.

ENGLISH ONLY

Republicans: The GOP supports recognition of English as the nation's common language. (The party dropped the word "official" in its English-only language in the platform.)

Democrats: While not specifically opposing English-only provisions, Democrats "support increased resources for English-language courses, which not only help newcomers learn our common language but also help us promote our common values."

SOCIAL SECURITY

Republicans: The GOP wants no tax increases in reforming the system. Personal savings accounts, in which a certain amount of Social Security funds could be invested in the stock market, "is the cornerstone" of the party's plan.

Democrats: Use current and future budget surpluses to strengthen Social Security. Pension plans should be secure and portable. In addition, allow for Gore's Retirement Savings Plus, voluntary, tax-free, personally controlled, privately managed savings accounts with a government match that would help couples build an account of up to $400,000. This is separate from Social Security.

HEALTH CARE

Republicans: Change the law to allow small businesses to band together to purchase group insurance. An "unprecedented tax credit" is needed to enable 27 million individuals and families to purchase private health insurance. Malpractice law reform is needed. Biomedical research is key, but the country must protect human embryos, oppose human cloning and trafficking in fetal tissue organs.

Democrats: Guarantee access to affordable health care for every child. Expand Medicaid coverage for working poor, especially those moving from welfare to work. Make health care affordable for small businesses and let those 55 to 65 buy in to Medicare.

Both parties want a patients bill of rights, although they differ in what that means.

WILD LANDS

Republicans: The GOP says a complete review must be undertaken of Western federally managed lands, with an eye toward transferring or sharing management responsibilities with the states.

Democrats: With regard to public lands, Democrats believe that communities, environmental interests and government agencies should work together to protect our public resources and wildlands while ensuring vital local economies.

POLITICAL REFORM

Republicans: Enact "paycheck protection" to "ensure no union member is forced to contribute" to anyone's campaign. Full and timely campaign finance disclosure is needed on the Internet to see who is giving how much to whom.

Democrats: The McCain-Feingold bill, which would limit "soft-money" contributions in campaigns, (and which many Republicans oppose) is the first legislation Al Gore would submit to Congress as president. In addition, Democrats want tough, new lobbying reform, publicly guaranteed TV time for debates by advocates and candidates and a crackdown on special-interest ads. Gore proposes a nonpartisan "Democracy Endowment" that would raise money from Americans to finance congressional campaigns. The party advocates freeing politics of special interests.

MILITARY

Republicans: The GOP supports deploying a national missile defense, saying "the American people deserve to be protected." Rebuild the infrastructure and morale of all branches of the military. American troops must never serve under United Nations command. The party is opposed to gays in the military.

Democrats: The party believes military pay must continue to increase. It says we need to improve military retirement, housing, health care and child care benefits. All Americans should be able to serve without discrimination, persecution or violence.

The full text of the adopted GOP platform can be found at www.rnc.org; the Democratic platform is at www.demos2000.com.