Legislation / Campaign for the Missing
What is Campaign for the Missing?
Campaign for the Missing is a grassroots effort to pass legislation in each state that will serve to improve the law enforcement community’s ability to locate and ensure a safe return of missing persons. It will address the national problems of missing persons and the identification of human remains and provide the framework for improving law enforcement’s response. It will also improve the collection of critical information about missing persons, prioritize high-risk missing persons cases, and ensure prompt dissemination of critical information to other law enforcement agencies and the public that can improve the likelihood of a safe return.
The Department of Justice, working with Federal, State, and local law enforcement; coroners and medical examiners; victim advocates; forensic scientists; key policymakers; and family members who have lived through this tragic experience, developed the model to be presented in each state’s legislature.
Current Campaign Status
The only states right now that have passed with the entire bill intact is NJ and OR.
Other states that have passed due to the work of Campaign volunteers is CT, FL, IL, IN, MN, NJ and OR. All three states need to add the DNA and unidentified remains section of the legislation. MN recently passed a version which included parts of our NE Jason’s Law.
States which passed similar legislation before the Campaign was in full swing: CA, CO, TX, and WA. These states still need work, such as adding the Project Jason Amendments.
What do I need to do?
The campaign seeks persons in each state who are willing to write to their own district’s elected official to ask for sponsorship. This is more than a letter writing campaign. Please read all of the information presented before making your committment.
These are the basic steps involved:
1) If you are interested in helping make a difference in the lives of thousands of missing persons and their families, send an email to email@example.com Give us your name and the state in which you live. Campaign volunteers are asked to work as a team and post updates on a special area of Project Jason’s forum.
2) Look up the name and contact information for your state senator. This is the official who works with state law rather than federal. You may look up your representative here http://www.ncsl.org/public/leglinks.cfm
3) Send either via email or US mail the prepared letter you will find at the end of this posting to that representative. You are asking them to sponsor this bill and to present it to the senate.
4) If you get a negative response, write to other senators until sponsorship is obtained. (My hope is that there will be more than one person in each state working on this, so that no one person is working on it.)
The following is a simplified version of how the process flows in Nebraska. This may vary slightly state to state. The senator’s aides in your state will be very willing to explain the process to you.
When a senator agrees to sponsor the bill, they will need to have their legislative aides research to ensure that nothing in the model will supersede current state law. If there are sections of the model already in place, those sections can be removed. A determination of fiscal (financial) impact may be prepared by the aides or other state employees.
Important Note about Fiscal Impact:
It is imperative that you submit the letter from the DNA Lab in TX (CHI) to your senator(s) and make sure they understand that CHI will bear the burden of the cost of DNA processing. A link to this letter is on the Pertinent Files thread on our forum. (Campaign volunteers report their status in a private area on our forum.) If you do not make this clear, your state will include DNA processing in their fiscal impact statement and potentially end up killing the bill for lack of funding to pay for DNA processing. CHI does it for free and is a government sanctioned lab.
When we find multiple senators to sponsor the bill in a single state, we can inform them who the original sponsor is, so that their offices can work together to research before the model goes to the writers. Any changes made are then presented to the campaign helpers in each state for approval. We will also help with this. Be sure to get sponsorship from persons in both the house and the senate.
The model and additions/corrections/deletions is forwarded to the state’s bill writers. Each state has certain language/formats that bills are written in. After the bill is written, another check should take place to ensure there are no errors.
The bill is now scheduled to be introduced to the legislature. It is assigned a number. After presentation, the bill is forwarded to a committee. After that point, a public hearing is scheduled.
At the hearing, interested citizens are invited to testify before the committee members. In NE, you can speak for up to 5 minutes. There may be persons or groups present who are testifying against the bill. The committee can opt to ask the citizens who testify questions about the bill. If you volunteer to assist with the campaign, you are not required to testify. We will be able to assist in locating families of the missing and representatives of organizations who are willing to do this.
After the hearing, the committee can “kill” the bill, take no action, or pass it out of committee to be debated upon by all of the senators at a later date.
Once passed out of the committee, the bill is debated twice, and if passed, will go to the governor. He/She can either sign it or veto it. (This may very slightly by state.)
Assuming success, you now have a law! (The law does not take effect upon signing.)
There are two additions I wish to see in this bill.
The additions I wish to add include: (Project Jason Amendments)
The law enforcement agency, upon acceptance of a missing persons report, shall inform the reporting citizen of one of two resources, based upon the age of the missing person. If the missing person is age 17 or under, contact information for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children shall be given. If the missing person is age 18 or older, contact information for a trained assistance nonprofit shall be given.
I cannot begin to tell you how often this does not occur, leaving families not knowing where to turn to receive much needed assistance. Utilizing LE is only one piece of the puzzle. Families need the resources, support, and awareness these agencies provide.
In respect to missing persons who are deceased and then identified:
Agencies handling the remains of a missing person who is now deceased must notify the LE agency handling the missing person’s case. Documented efforts must be made to locate family members of the deceased person to inform them of the death and location of the remains of their family member.
This is a sample letter you may use to send to your state senator to ask for sponsorship of the model legislation.
Text of model legislation:
Original model legislation
All volunteers should be using the new 2009 version of the model legislation now.
Here is the link: Model Legislation 2009 Revision
So, the question now remains:
Are you willing to take action to help the families you read about here and the countless thousands of other families who live in the “not knowing”? What if it was your son, daughter, mother, father, brother, or sister?
What if you were me and you did not know if your own son was a body lying in a morgue somewhere? What if you were me and you wondered if you would ever see your child again?
I am but one voice for the missing, crying out not just for myself and my son, but for all of those who are not among us, and are close to our hearts.
While it may seem an insurmountable task to get the model legislation passed in all 50 states, that doesn’t matter to me. If we do not try, then we will never succeed. If we do try, then we have a chance.
There is always hope.