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BPD Update Online, Fall 2001
ANSWER Congressional Efforts Bolstered by Celebrity Lobbying

Sue Hoechstetter, ANSWER Legislative Representative

WHEN CONGRESS LEFT FOR ITS SUMMER RECESS IN EARLY AUGUST SOCIAL WORK HAD MOVED A STEP CLOSER TO ACHIEVING LONG-TERM, TARGETED SUPPORT FOR SOCIAL WORK RESEARCH FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. The National Center for Social Work Research Act (S 70/HR 663) has progressed in the complicated legislative dance following a variety of efforts by congressional champions, the Action Network for Social Work Education and Research (ANSWER), and Deloris Jordan, mother of basketball star Michael Jordan. Complete details on the ANSWER coalition's efforts on behalf of its co-sponsors are available at CSWE Online. Visit www.cswe.org/answer to go directly there.

On July 12 Jordan came to Capitol Hill to lobby in behalf of the National Center with representatives of ANSWER. She generously gave her time to speak to a packed house at a Capitol Hill breakfast briefing sponsored by Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-TX) and Asa Hutchinson (R-AR). She then met individually with members of Congress and staff in nine congressional offices. She spoke about her experiences with her children, her work with disadvantaged youth and families through three family foundations (including the Jordan Institute for Families at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School Social Work), and her travels to help disadvantaged families abroad.

Jordan pointedly urged passage of the National Center legislation, distributing a letter of support for both bills that said "Ensuring that our nation's youth and their families receive quality health and social services is of utmost priority to The Jordan Institute for Families. The National Center for Social Work Research Act would help myself and the tens of thousands of others working with troubled youth and families to do our jobs better and would help policymakers address the issues by providing the necessary information we are in need of."

Kim Strom-Gottfried, interim dean of the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Social Work, Sue Hoechstetter, ANSWER Legislative Representative, and Daphne Petersen, the Association of Baccalaureate Social Work Program Directors Policy Fellow, accompanied Mrs. Jordan on her congressional visits. The group was treated to a run through the Capitol when Rep. J. C. Watts (R.-OK), a former football star, asked them to accompany him to his meeting with Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R.-IL). Jordan had the opportunity to inform the speaker and House leadership about the social work bill.

Key Republican Energy and Commerce Committee leadership told Rep. Hutchinson that they would support the legislation in the important Health Subcommittee, with possible changes to it. The most likely changes would be related to opposition to create a new center within the National Institutes of Health. Committee support is key to passing the legislation. Social workers and their congressional champions must continue to educate key members of Congress and committee staff about the importance of targeting funds to social work research in a way that the money allocated would definitely be used for that purpose. A downloadable or printable toolkit for legislative advocacy is available at CSWE Online to guide advocates in addressing this bill with their senators and representatives.

At press time, the House bill has 48 co-sponsors, including Republicans and Democrats from the Health Subcommittee. However, according to congressional staff, no new cosponsors can be added unless the bill is reintroduced. That is because the lead sponsor, Rep. Hutchinson, left Congress on August 6 to head the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Congressman Hutchinson's chief of staff, former social work educator Betty Guhman, also moved to the DEA. She and Vivian Curry, Rep. Hutchinson's legislative assistant, worked hard to help move the legislation. The closing of Mr. Hutchinson's office is a great loss to the National Center effort. However, Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) has now taken leadership on the Republican side, and Rep. Rodriguez continues to work tirelessly in behalf of the legislation. Upon his move to DEA, ANSWER expressed its appreciation to Rep. Hutchinson in a letter, a copy of which is available at CSWE Online.

In the Senate, Sen. John Edwards (D-NC), a member of the key Public Health Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, joined as a co-sponsor for S 70 following Jordan's visit to Capitol Hill. But social work is still seeking its first Republican Senate co-sponsor for the legislation. In July, Len Kaye of the University of Maine School Social Work came to Washington to meet with Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). The Senator expressed considerable interest in the legislation as did Sen. Tim Hutchinson (R-AR) during Mrs. Jordan's visit. It is hoped that these two senators and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) will become the first Republican Senate co-sponsors of the National Center legislation.

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) chairs both the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee and its Public Health Subcommittee, which have jurisdiction over S 70 in the Senate. His committee staff told ANSWER, Mrs. Jordan, and Sen. Daniel Inouye's staff that they that they are interested in including the legislation in the package of public health bills which the House and Senate are working on. They, too, are considering whether or not the Center would be placed within NIH. Sen. Inouye, chief sponsor of S 70, continues to work with a variety of Senate offices to promote the legislation.

Change in the House, and New Senate Support Means the Center for Social Work Research Act Legislation will continue its "complicated legislative dance"

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