Friday, September 14, 2012

Follow Up: Support ... I Think

Catching up a bit here from a big shakeup or three in our family cosmos. Received this letter in the mail and wanted to share:

My first response was elation and a small frisson of delight. My first letter from Congress regarding an issue I'd detailed in an email to my representative! I know it's a form letter, but still.

Recently, I was able to read through it with greater concentration, and my reaction became a bit more ... layered. First, the second paragraph provoked an ironic smile. Yes, please tell me more about what autism is. Okay, no don't. I live with it and I believe that you, or at least your staff, has done its homework (at least until the fourth paragraph).

I had trouble understanding the next paragraph. I may have gotten a high grade in Civics and History back in, um, the 80s, but that doesn't mean that today I understand our legislative process (shame). Hello, Google -- let's take a few random legislative tours.

In particular, I was struck by the lack of detail in that third paragraph's last sentence (especially after the pithy summaries above) -- what does it really mean, when a Representative "supports" a bill? So I Googled H.R. 2005, and how Mike Thompson voted on this bill. Top results for me involved co-sponsoring of this bill. I learned one thing: Mike Thompson was not a co-sponsor. Query, what is a co-sponsor? Answer: link.

Okay, so a not being a co-sponsor does not equal non-support. Again, what did Rep. Thompson do to  "support" this bill?

I searched for his vote and found nothing. Curious. So I researched the approval process for this bill, and refreshed my memory on the journey of a bill. Thanks, Project Vote Smart! I verified that, per Rep. Thompson's letter, the bill passed in the House on September 20, 2011. A little more digging found that the reason I could not find a voting record is because the bill passed in the House by a voice vote.

Was Rep. Thompson one of those voices? I sure hope so, but he didn't specify that.

For the curious, here's an interesting look at how the bill was distributed to the House that September 20th (link to PDF file; bottom of page 10, you're welcome). And it you want to see the official Law (unsigned, but veritas in PDF format)? Here ya go!

I was not happy to see see autism lumped into "debilitating conditions and diseases" in paragraph four. While some sensitivity and physical issues related to autism may be debilitating, autism is definitely NOT a disease. You can't catch it from someone else. Bad form letter; no biscuit.

Last year I advocated that sb 946 be renewed to keep funding in place at our state's level for autism research and services. I sincerely appreciate Rep. Thompson's follow-through to report that H.R. 2005 was signed into law by President Obama (yay!) and the exact date of the signing. In an election year, it's important to remind constituents of how their interests have been represented.

A little more clarity on the "support" given to H.R. 2005 would have been excellent and I sincerely hope Rep. Thompson and his staff are aware that autism is not a disease. I am glad to see that one of my Congressional Representatives is aware that autism is a big issue to lots of families, and he's willing to go on record as a supporter of research and services to help those affected with autism.

Layers, I tell you -- but with a hopeful feeling, overall.

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