House passes Amber Alert bill

Tuesday, February 4, 2003

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Law enforcement agencies around the state would join forces to alert the public of suspected abductions under a bill overwhelmingly passed Monday by the Missouri House.

The bill would create a statewide Amber Alert system, named after a 9-year-old Texas girl who was abducted and murdered in 1996. Local residents who believed instant publicity might have saved her persuaded a radio station to report possible kidnappings.

Since then, several states -- and some Missouri communities -- adopted systems to alert the public about abductions through radio and television broadcasts.

The legislation that passed the House 160-0 and now goes to the Senate would put into Missouri law a system already being developing under an executive order issued last fall by Gov. Bob Holden.

Besides broadcasters, the Missouri system also is making use of the Department of Transportation, which has volunteered its digital road signs to display the abduction alerts.

Republicans said legislative approval of an abduction alert law could make it possible for the state to get federal funds for the program.

But Democrats said legislative approval was meaningless, because the system was already in place.

Legislative researchers estimated the bill would cost $91,000 to implement in its first year, and about $60,000 in the next two years.

Senators considered similar legislation Monday but did not vote. Republican Sen. Chuck Gross, who is sponsoring the bill in that chamber, said the financial estimate was being lowered to near nothing because the bill largely duplicated what already was being done under Holden's order.

Given that, Democrats in the Senate and House said the legislation wasn't necessary.

"I can't think of a reason for doing more than that," said Sen. James Mathewson, D-Sedalia. "I think it's pretty well covered."

But Gross, of St. Charles, said the Legislature should have a say on the issue because "an executive order is an opinion of one."


Amber Alert bills are HB185 (Phillips) and SB30 (Gross).

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