The D.C. City Council gave preliminary approval last week to a bill that would ban production or distribution of materials depicting children engaging in sexual conduct, whether or not they fit the legal definition of obscene materials.

Council member John Ray (D-At Large), who introduced the bill earlier this year, said the use of children for sexual materials -- commonly called "kiddie porn" -- is a "form of child abuse" that should be prohibited.

The measure passed by unanimous voice vote. A final vote is scheduled Nov. 16.

The bill would set criminal penalties for anyone who induces children age 16 or younger to engage in real or simulated sexual conduct. Parents or guardians who consent to such conduct also would be liable under the bill.

The council's Judiciary Committee approved the bill in late July after minimal debate over its effectiveness in the absence of a determination of obscenity.

The committee report said neither the city's "sex offense laws nor obscenity laws fully cover all conceivable situations involving the production of visual material depicting explicit sexual conduct by children."

A person now could be arrested in the District for showing legally obscene material to children but could not necessarily be successfully prosecuted "for having the same child pose while engaged in sexually explicit conduct," according to the report.

The council, by its vote, agreed with Ray that although the definition of obscenity is enmeshed in a legal thicket, the city has the power to act to control specific conduct by minors.

Ray said police officials have told him Washington is a prime target for kiddie porn businesses that have been outlawed in New York and other eastern states. He said the officials reported little current production of child pornography in the District.

Under the proposed bill, persons convicted of producing or distributing kiddie porn or inducing children to participate in its production would be subject to a 10-year sentence and a $5,000 fine for a first offense. Subsequent convictions could result in sentences of up to 20 years and fines of up to $15,000.

Council members David A. Clarke (D-Ward 1) and Betty Ann Kane (D-At Large) cosponsored the bill, entitled "The District of Columbia Protection of Minors Act of 1982" (4-305).

CHILD SAFETY SEATS -- A council committee has approved a bill to require persons with a District driver's license or cars registered in the city to use safety restraints for children age 6 or younger.

The bill would not apply to commerical vehicles, such as buses and taxis, or to out-of-state motorists, including those from Virginia and Maryland. However, District drivers would be liable even if driving a car registered in another state.

The bill is scheduled to go to the full council next month.

VETERNARIAN BOARD -- The council last week gave preliminary approval to a bill that would set up a seven-member board to regulate veterinary practices.