WASHINGTON — Kentucky 1st District Congressman James Comer said he believes a bill he and fellow member of the United States House of Representatives have drafted will be one of the five most important pieces of legislation that will come out of Washington this year.
The bill would result in the formation of the Stronger Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, and it was introduced on Friday. Comer, a Republican from Monroe County, said it is quite simple why he feels so strongly about this legislation and its importance. It might be one of the few bills in 2019 resulting from cooperation between GOP members of the House and their Democratic Party counterparts.
“But it can be done between us, and this is one that proves that,” Comer said on Friday afternoon in a phone interview from Washington. “Congresswoman (Kim Schrier, a Democrat from Washington State) and I have been working on this piece of legislation since January and we think we have come up with something that is solid and bipartisan.
“Something like this, where you’re talking about children, it should be bipartisan where everyone can get behind it. This, I believe when everything is said and done, will be one of the top five biggest deals that comes out of Congress this year.”
Comer said the most noteworthy portion of this bill (House Resolution 2480) is that it makes major changes to the concept of the sharing of information and data for families, as well as the agencies investigating these cases. He compared it to bills that are attempting to address mass shootings, particularly the 2018 incident at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in South Florida.
“You look at the shooting that preceded it at (Marshall County High School in Draffenville), it doesn’t look like there were a lot of signs that it was coming to share with law enforcement. At Parkland, though, there were a lot of signs, so like the bill that was addressing that, the child abuse bill is establishing a new data system that immediately gets the appropriate people notified and gets those investigations moving forward,” he said.
“By doing this, we’ll also be able to more quickly identify potential abusers. This is a huge problem in this country. The number of cases is steadily increasing.”
In a press release, Schrier, a pediatrician, reinforced Comer’s idea that this bill should circumvent party lines.
“One death of a child is one too many. As a pediatrician, I am trained to identify potential instances of child abuse and neglect. Too often we react to child abuse instead of doing everything we can to prevent it. It is long past time to help children before they are abused,” Schrier said. “This isn’t a partisan issue, which is why I am proud to introduce CAPTA with bipartisan cosponsors like my colleague Rep. Comer. Our legislation will provide resources to families and states to help prevent child abuse and neglect, including for children affected by the opioid crisis.”
The opioid crisis is especially prevalent in Comer’s home state, where more than 1,500 people died from drug overdoses, many of which were attributed to opioids, in 2017. Many of those cases involved children having to be placed in foster homes.
That is why Comer said he will do what he can to fast track this bill through the House. The first step will be negotiating the various committees that must hear this bill, and he said he hopes this will begin in as little as three weeks. He said the goal is to have this bill through the House by July 4.
Then, it will be the Senate’s turn, and with a Kentuckian serving as the top person in that chamber, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Comer said he is feeling confident that this bill will move through the Senate rather easily. He added that McConnell’s power has already been shown with a bill Comer heavily supported last year, the Farm Bill.
“This one is quite similar to that. This is an act that needs to be updated every six years, where the Farm Bill is updated every five years, and we saw what happened with it,” Comer said, referring to how he credits McConnell with having industrial hemp’s status as an illicit plant removed so its production by farmers could be part of the 2018 version of the bill.
Comer said hopes are high that the child abuse bill will go to the Senate floor by sometime in November or December before Congress recesses for the Christmas break. The bill would then go to the desk of President Donald Trump.