By Susan Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
Two bills, one in the House and one in the Senate, seek to make it a crime not to report a missing child also known as “Caylee’s Law.”
Representative Juandalynn “Lee Lee” Givan (D-Birmingham) has sponsored HB 4 House. It is currently in the House Judiciary Committee. Senator Brian Taylor (R-Prattville) has sponsored SB65 in the Senate. It too is still in Judiciary Committee but in the Senate.
The bills are similar with only a few details differing. The main difference is the time allotment given to parents to report a missing or deceased child to law enforcement.
“We are going to work together to get the best possible bill that we can. There isn’t anybody in the legislature that doesn’t believe that we ought to make this the law in Alabama,” said Taylor.
Taylor said that the difference is legal, technical. Givan’s bill contains a 24-hour provision where Taylor’s bill contains a 12-hour provision before a person can be charged with failure to report a missing child.
He told the committee on Wednesday that after much thought and deliberation he sees two main problem with the time constraints. He said that in the bills it is not clear when the “clock begins ticking.”
“The concern about the whereabouts of a child develops with the parents over time. They become more and more concerned as time goes by,” said Taylor.
He said that the second concern is that the constraints are arbitrary, that constraints shouldn’t be put on a parent that knows or strongly suspects that their child has been abducted.
Attempts to strengthen missing child legislation has been attempted in 17 states but they have found it tough based on the concerns that the bills are too broad.
New Jersey is the only state that has been successful in putting a new law on the books.
The most recent state to attempt strengthening its laws is Iowa but it was rejected after questions were raised as to whether it was too vague.
The only other state that has made progress is South Dakota whose Senate has approved a bill giving parents 48 hours to report a missing child.
Florida’s Legislature is considering a bill but the changes have been fixated on the wording “knowingly and willingly” misleading police resulting in the death of a child.
“It shouldn’t matter to us who gets credit as sponsor of this bill. What is most important is that we get a strong law enacted in the state of Alabama that insures that parents are held accountable for failure to report missing children,” concluded Taylor.
The combined bill should be presented before the Senate Judiciary Committee this upcoming week.