The state House is quickly moving a bill inspired by a little girl who was murdered last year in Springfield, that proponents hope will help prevent similar tragedies.
The abduction and murder of 10-year-old Hailey Owens happened one year ago this month. It was nearly two hours after she was abducted that a statewide Amber Alert was issued, and since her death efforts have been made to speed up that process.
Representative Eric Burlison (R-Springfield) is proposing another step in those efforts with what he calls “Hailey’s Law.”
“What Hailey’s Law does is builds an electronic interface between the MULES system: the Missouri uniform law enforcement system, and the Amber Alert system that the Highway Patrol is responsible for,” Burlison told a House committee Monday night.
Burlison says that will allow missing child alerts to get to the Highway Patrol, and statewide distribution, faster. He told Missourinet last year that one of the delays in issuing the Amber Alert in the Hailey Owens abduction was that local law enforcement must download a document from the Patrol’s website, fill that out, submit it to the Patrol, then the Patrol must contact local law enforcement to confirm it isn’t a hoax all before an alert is issued.
Hailey’s mother, Stacey Barfield, believes his bill will help.
“I want it [as soon as possible],” Barfield told Missourinet about wanting to see Burlison’s bill become law. “I would be happy when I hear the final news saying, ‘Hey, it’s out there.’ I don’t want any other parents to go through what I’m going through.”
In an unusual move, a House committee held a hearing on that bill and before the hearing was over, voted to advance it. It must clear another committee before going to the full House.
Last year the state legislature appropriated money to tie MULES into the Amber Alert system, but that connection was never made. Burlison says his bill this year will make sure it gets done before that money rolls back into the state’s General Revenue fund.
His proposal would also require the Amber Alert System Oversight Committee to meet at least once a year to discuss possible improvements to the Amber Alert system, and allows committee membership to include a member of the public and a member of the outdoor advertising industry.