JEFFERSON CITY - A proposal to hasten Amber Alerts, inspired by a Missouri girl's slaying, has been well-received by lawmakers but may be bogged down in an increasingly fractious state Senate.
The bill known as "Hailey's Law" would expedite the issuance of Amber Alerts and would require the state Amber Alert System Oversight Committee to meet at least once a year.
The legislation's namesake, Hailey Owens, was 10 when she was abducted and killed in 2014. The man accused of her kidnapping and killing, Craig Wood, awaits trial.
The Senate Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety on Thursday lent their ears to Jim Wood's testimony on the bill, filed this year by Rep. Curtis Trent, R-Springfield.
As he did in a House hearing in February, Jim Wood — Craig Wood's father — relayed how he was near his son's home the day Hailey was taken and wished retroactively for a better system to get out the word.
"If, some way, that Amber Alert could have been released in a timely manner, maybe we could have prevented this crisis that is destroying two families," Wood told the committee.
The Senate hearing comes as Stacey Barfield is asking Greene County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Patterson to accept a plea deal that would result in life imprisonment for Craig Wood to avoid a trial.
Adding to the drama, Jeff Barfield — Stacey's husband and Hailey's stepfather — has been indicted on child pornography charges. Investigators do not believe Hailey was a victim.
Trent's bill has received overwhelming support from Republicans and Democrats alike, and it is about a week ahead of schedule based on the fate of similar legislation in 2015, which died in the Senate.
Even so, its progress is in doubt due to the Senate's decreased speed in recent weeks as Democrats and Republicans hold the floor to fight for and against bills in the limited time remaining before the deadline to finalize a balanced budget.
Thursday morning, for example, lawmakers spent more than 90 minutes discussing topics including managed health care plans, "dark money" in politics, previous filibuster attempts and jokes about basketball — all during a section of the day dedicated to recognizing guests and visitors.
Sen. Dave Schatz, the committee chairman, said the bill's chances were buoyed because it had already been passed by the House. He noted that the bill might be tried in the Senate as an amendment to another bill, such as one relating to the "Blue Alert" notification system.
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