by David Jones, Contributing Writer
NOVEMBER 27 — Rep. Lamar Smith remembers his first election as precinct chairman in San Antonio. He knocked on just about every door in the district and personally asked for people’s vote.
“Everyone was shocked when I won, including me,” he says.
At the time, the SMU Dedman Law School graduate said he had lofty political ambitions: he dreamed of being a Texas Justice of the Peace, which was a part-time job that provided a county-owned car to those in the office.
Rep. Smith is now the chairman of the powerful U.S. House Judiciary Committee and is responsible for shepherding through Congress some of the most important legislation impacting businesses. He co-sponsored the Patent Reform Act, which passed earlier this year with broad bipartisan political support and was signed into law by President Obama.
Fresh on the heels of that victory, the Republican congressman from Texas’ 21st District, which includes parts of Austin, San Antonio and a large part of the Texas Hill Country, is pushing the Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Venue Reform Act. The legislation is designed to force businesses to file for restructuring and reorganization in the state where they primarily do business. (Please read this article for more)
Rep. Smith, who is 63 and has served in the U.S. House for 24 years, recently spent an hour with about 100 students at his alma mater, discussing his career, pending legislation, and answering questions.
Born in San Antonio, Rep. Smith told SMU law students he had a confession:
“If I had known that I would become the chairman of the judiciary committee, I would have studied harder and I would have taken advanced con law,” he said. “I spent too much time playing tennis, too much time flying, and too much time working on the law school newspaper.”
Rep. Smith pointed out that previous leaders of the Judiciary Committee include Daniel Webster and James Buchanan.
“I would like to say that I have no plans to run for president or write a dictionary,” he says.
Rep. Smith specifically pointed to the Patent Reform Act as proof that Republicans and Democrats can work together to make positive changes.
“There is a huge backlog at the Patent Office and it takes up to three years for patent approval,” he says. “We desperately needed to streamline the patent system because it is the backbone of technology and creativity. Patent reform is about justice and the economy.”
Rep. Smith told students that despite their political differences, he was very excited to stand beside President Obama when the president signed the Patent Reform Act into law.
“The president signed with eleven different pens and I have one of them,” Rep. Smith said. The chairman said he looked up the value of such ink pens by seeing what other pens sold for on eBay. His findings: $750 to $2,500.
“I have my pen on my wall, but my curiosity was satisfied,” he said.