The Missouri House and Senate have approved similar bills that would require Missouri’s Amber Alert System Oversight Committee to meet at least annually.
Supporters hope to get a bill on the governor’s desk by the end of session in May.
State Sen. Eric Burlison, R-Springfield, filed “Hailey’s Law” in response to the 2014 kidnapping, rape and killing of ten-year-old Hailey Owens in Springfield.
Burlison’s bill is Senate Bill 145.
He appeared last week before the House Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee in Jefferson City. He testifies Missouri issues about six Amber Alerts for abductions each year.
“And for those families when minutes and seconds matter, we have to have a system in place that is responsive as possible,” Burlison says.
Senator Burlison testifies he believes the system failed Hailey Owens. He says Springfield Police had to find a PDF file on the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s website, print it off and fax back a handwritten report, which then had to be recomposed by state troopers into a different system.
Burlison, who’s a software engineer, tells the House committee that was “archaic and unacceptable.” His bill requires the Amber Alert System to be integrated into the Missouri Uniform Law Enforcement System (MULES).
Craig Wood was convicted of first degree murder and has been sentenced to death for killing Owens.
Hailey’s father Markus and Craig’s dad Jim sat and testified together during last week’s Jefferson City hearing, in support of the Burlison legislation. Markus says this is about protecting children.
“You know that every second counts when an Amber Alert is issued. This bill will speed up the process to ensure Amber Alerts are more current (for the) public to search for missing kids,” Owens testifies.
Jim Wood agrees. He tells lawmakers that Hailey’s life could have been saved, if the Amber Alert was issued earlier.
“I was within moments of Craig’s house (where Hailey Owens was killed) and I could have been to Craig’s house before Craig was there, and that is why Markus and I support Hailey’s Law,” Wood says.
State Rep. Bruce Franks, D-St. Louis, praises Mr. Owens and Mr. Wood for testifying together and for their efforts to protect other children.
“To thank you all for working together in such a hard, trying time to bring justice and to push forward on policy that could potentially save lives of others. I know how hard that is,” Franks tells them.
Representative Franks then walked down from his committee seat into the audience to shake hands with both fathers.
Burlison’s bill would also allow Missouri’s Amber Alert System Oversight Committee to include a representative from the outdoor advertising industry. He says digital highway signs can be very effective.
HAILEY’s Law is officially known as the “Honing Alerts Issued by Law Enforcement for Youth Safety Act.”
The House Crime Prevention Committee will vote on Burlison’s bill on Wednesday. The current House and Senate versions are virtually identical. Burlison notes one uses the word “may”, while the other says “shall.”
The House version is sponsored by State Rep. Curtis Trent, R-Springfield. Hailey’s Law is backed by House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, and House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield. The murder happened in Quade’s district.
Craig Wood is appealing his death sentence. The Missouri Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case earlier this month.
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