Austin American-Statesman: Doggett’s abuse bill nearly a law

Posted on from Austin American-Statesman in In the News

By Tim Eaton
American-Statesman Staff

It has been an eventful week for U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett.

On Thursday, the Austin Democrat was sworn in for the ninth time as a member of Congress. And earlier in the week, Doggett witnessed the rare occurrence of one of his measures getting successfully voted out of Congress.

The Doggett-sponsored measure, the Protect Our Kids Act, is on its way to the president’s desk, and if President Barack Obama signs the bill, it will mark the fourth time since 1995 that one of the bills sponsored by Doggett becomes law.

The bill, House Resolution 6655, would establish a national commission to come up with recommendations to reduce the number of children who die from abuse and neglect, according to a press release from Doggett’s office.

“Texas has the highest rate of child abuse and neglect fatalities in the nation,” Doggett said in a statement. “The Protect Our Kids Act will help provide thoughtful consideration of the steps we can take to better protect vulnerable children.”

Just because few Doggett-sponsored bills have become law doesn’t mean he has been ineffectual, said James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin.

“Congressman Doggett receives a lot of attention for being a constant political target, but the partisan politics of redistricting lead some people to forget that, whether you agree with his politics or not, he is an active and effective legislator,” Henson said. “He has seniority and the knowledge of the process that comes along with such experience, and he uses these assets in the process.”

Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University, said that

Congress has been passing more omnibus legislation that incorporates several measures and has passed fewer individual bills as a result, Jillson said.

Sarah Dohl, a spokeswoman for Doggett, noted that recent legislation to avoid a spill off the fiscal cliff included an extension of higher education tax credit, which was proposed by Doggett in 2009.

Doggett was the lead Democrat on a bill last year to improve and extend key child welfare programs, Dohl said. The Austin Democrat also passed a provision in 2010 to help people such as veterans, domestic violence victims and people with disabilities get better access to the justice system.

Other returning members of Congress representing Austin and four surrounding Central Texas counties include U.S. Reps. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio; Michael McCaul, R-Austin; John Carter, R-Round Rock; Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi; and Bill Flores, R-Waco. Newly elected U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin, also joined the delegation on Thursday.