HOUSE APPROVES ‘AMBER ALERT’ BILL (But added measures put its fate in doubt)

Newsday/Elaine S. Povich

A day after the miraculous safe return of Elizabeth Smart, several lawmakers joined Ed Smart,the Utah teenager's father, in urging quick passage of a federal Amber Alert bill, which wouldallocate $25 million to implement the program that broadcasts information on highway signs,electronic message boards and radio and TV stations in the crucial first hours after a child iskidnapped. The bill, named after Amber Hagerman, a Texas girl who was kidnapped and murdered in1996, was passed unanimously in the Senate in September, but stalled after the House attached it toRep. James Sensenbrenner's (R-Wis) larger Child Abduction Prevention Act, which provides formandatory 20 year sentencing for kidnapping someone under 18 and expansion of wiretap authority forinvestigations of sex crimes involving children. Ed Smart said, This is clearly an issue thatcannot wait one day longer. Each day costs a life...Jim Sensenbrenner seems to be exhibitingreckless disregard for not only his constituents, but children throughout the country.

The House yesterday passed Amber Alert legislation that would establish the nationwide childkidnapping notification network. We're very disappointed we couldn't get a stand-alone bill, saidRep. Louise Slaughter (R-Rochester), who had helped lead the fight for a simple Amber bill. Itcould have been signed immediately. It flies in the face of what everybody said when ElizabethSmart came home, that you've got to get this done immediately. The House bill includes newcrackdowns on sex offenders, a toughened wiretap provision for suspected child predators, andsanctions for those who mislead Internet users into accessing pornographic sites. In addition,accused child rapists and abductors would be denied bail. And there would be not statute oflimitations on child kidnappings and sex crimes.