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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Lawmakers Introduce Combating Autism Act Reauthorization

Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) has issued a press release:

Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mike Enzi (R-WY) today unveiled legislation to reauthorize the Combating Autism Act of 2006. This legislation ensures that the critical programs established under the original law continue for an additional three years, including CDC surveillance programs, HRSA intervention and training programs, and the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC). These programs are set to expire in September of this year without any Congressional action. Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Scott Brown (R-MA) are original cosponsors of this legislation. Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Mike Doyle (D- PA) will be introducing companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“Families in New Jersey, more than anywhere else, understand that we need to address autism on multiple fronts. I am proud to introduce this legislation to continue work on research, surveillance, awareness and treatment efforts in order to give these families the support they need. I look forward to passing the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act into law before it sunsets in September in order to ensure that we don’t lose the vital research and services that this legislation provides.” Said Senator Menendez.

“This important legislation continues the good work of the original Combating Autism Act, which assists individuals living with autism and other developmental disabilities and their families, and ensures that those key programs do not expire,” said Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Ranking Member on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “This bill safeguards autism research and makes sure that there will be sustained awareness of autism across federal health agencies. I am glad this bill will continue to provide a voice to the community of people affected by this disorder.”

Bob Wright, co-founder of Autism Speaks: "Autism Speaks thanks Senators Menendez and Enzi for their leadership in introducing this critical legislation which deeply impacts the futures of the ever-growing number of Americans diagnosed with autism. Action is needed quickly in Congress to assure the federal government remains committed to addressing this national health crisis."

The Autism Self-Advocacy Network takes exception:

Today, Senators Menendez and Enzi will be introducing legislation extending the Combating Autism Act for three more years. The Combating Autism Act was passed in 2005 without the involvement or consultation of a single Autistic person, let alone the broader self-advocate community. Without legislative action by Congress, the Act would expire on September 30th of this year. While we respect the Senators' good intentions, the Menendez-Enzi legislation would freeze in place the current flawed CAA programs, which fail to make any provision for services, do not incorporate anything about adults on the autism spectrum and exclude self-advocates. As a result, ASAN opposes any long term re-authorization of CAA without badly needed investments in services and vital program reforms to ensure self-advocates are involved at every level. We're urging you to call your Senators and tell them to OPPOSE the Menendez-Enzi re-authorization legislation as too long an extension without any of the needed reforms.