State Representative Curtis Trent, R-Springfield, will present Thursday his bill – referred to as Hailey’s Law – to a Senate committee that would require the Amber Alert oversight committee to meet at least annually. According to the Department of Public Safety, the last committee meeting was in October 2015. The previous meeting was in March 2014.
“The goal there is to make sure that the oversight committee is functioning as intended – that it is regularly reviewing the system to try to detect any flaws or problems with the system,” says Trent. “I think the feeling is that it (the committee) could be more robust now. I’m not here to criticize them but anytime we can make something better, I think we should take the opportunity to do that.”
The formation of the committee became law in 2003. Missouri law says the primary duty of the committee is to develop Amber Alert system criteria and procedures and revise them with the Department of Public Safety to work efficiently and effectively in notifying the public.
Under current law, the panel, which is chaired by Public Safety Director Sandy Karsten, is required to meet regularly, but regularly is not defined in law.
“This is a problem we have with a lot of commissions in the state. There are a large number of them that have difficulty keeping members and meeting regularly and everything,” he says.
According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Missouri issued four Amber Alerts in 2015, ten in 2016, six in 2017, four in 2018 and one so far this year.
Trent, who has sponsored the bill for three years, says law enforcement has been a major partner in the progress of the Amber Alert system and says safety officials care about the issue.
The members of the committee have expired terms but technically still sit on the panel until their position is filled by the governor and approved by the State Senate.
The measure, known as Hailey’s Law, in response to the 2014 kidnapping, rape and killing of ten-year-old Hailey Owens in Springfield. A House committee has passed a similar Senate bill.
The Senate Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety committee hearing on House Bill 185 is scheduled for 8:20 a.m. Thursday in the Senate Lounge of the Missouri Capitol.
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