CORNYN PRODS REP. BOBBY SCOTT TO STOP STALLING JENNA’S LAW, AIMED AT CHILD SEX ABUSE. The bill, modeled after a Texas law named for Jenna Quinn, is bottled up in the House after passing the Senate with unanimous consent.

December 3, 2020
Elizabeth Thompson
Dallas News

Sen. John Cornyn has ramped up pressure on a House chairman who has stalled his bill aimed at curbing child sex abuse, demanding that Education and Labor Chairman Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia let the bill get a vote before time runs out this month.

The Senate gave unanimous approval in September to the bipartisan Jenna Quinn Law, introduced by the Texas Republican and Sen. Maggie Hassan, a New Hampshire Democrat.

Cornyn made the bill a centerpiece of his reelection campaign, and Quinn, a Texan who was abused by her father’s best friend starting when she was 13, was featured in a campaign ad less than a week after the bill passed the Senate.

It’s based on a state law by the same name that has been in effect in Texas for over 10 years.

“You’re just a kid and no one believed you,” Quinn says into the camera in the 30-second spot. “But years later, John Cornyn did. He actually listened to me.”

The Jenna Quinn Law would allow existing grant funds to be used to train teachers, students, caregivers and other adults who work with children in a professional or volunteer setting to identify and report child sexual abuse.

Scott is not opposed to the bill, and he is open to including the Jenna Quinn Law in a strengthened bipartisan reauthorization of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act. Which he helped introduce in 2019, according to a Democratic committee aide. The legislation passed the House in May by a voice vote.

Authorization for the original act, known as CAPTA, expired in 2015, but Congress has continued to fund the program anyway based on its last reauthorization.

Cornyn’s legislation would amend a small part of the original act, whereas Scott’s bill is a comprehensive reauthorization of CAPTA with updated funding that could be amended to include the provisions from the Jenna Quinn Law.

Cornyn, Hassan and Minnesota Sen. Tina Smith, a Democrat, sent a letter Wednesday to Scott and other House leadership to urge swift action be taken to pas the bill. They argue that the bill is “critical” to increase education on how to report child abuse, as shifts to remote learning have led to a drop in reports of child abuse. In North Texas, reports of child and abuse were down 43%

If the bill does not pass the House in time to get to President Donald Trump’s desk by the end of the year, it will have to start all over again in the new Congress.
“As we know, children are stuck at home with their abusers,” Cornyn said. “During this pandemic, we don’t have the luxury of time, so I hope Congressman Scott comes around.”

Child sexual abuse has long been called America’s “silent epidemic.” More than half of sexual assault happen within one mile of the victim’s home, and 90% of child sex abuse victims know their abuser, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network

Cornyn took to Twitter on Thursday to call out Scott for “blocking” the legislation.

“For children who are suffering from this abuse are stuck at home with their abusers during the COVID-19 pandemic and don’t have the luxury of waiting — we need to pass this now,” Cornyn said.

He was joined by Texas state Rep. Tan Parker, a Republican from Flower Mound who introduced The Jenna Quinn Law in the Texas legislature. Parker called the Texas law “a lifeline for countless children who would otherwise face unthinkable devastation” and urged Scott to “do the right thing for our nation’s children.”

U.S. Rep. Ron Wright, a Tarrant County Republican who serves on the House Education and Labor Committee, agreed with Cornyn that there is no time to lose in passing the bill.

“We cannot wait any longer to pass this vital legislation in the House,” Wright wrote on Twitter. “We have an obligation to recognize and protect the children in our communities from sexual abuse.”

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