Bill: Report any missing kidsA caregiver who does not report a child missing or a child’s death within 24 hours could be found guilty of a class C felony that could carry a five-year prison sentence, $5,000 fine, or both under a bill before the Legislature.
By: By TJ Jerke, Forum News Service , The Jamestown Sun
BISMARCK — A caregiver who does not report a child missing or a child’s death within 24 hours could be found guilty of a class C felony that could carry a five-year prison sentence, $5,000 fine, or both under a bill before the Legislature.
Sen. Tyler Axness, D-Fargo, has proposed Senate Bill 2125, which he said is a step in the right direction to provide accountability for North Dakota children.
“It’s currently illegal to abandon a child and abuse a child,” he told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. “But it’s perfectly legal to let a child go missing without reporting it.”
The definition of a “caregiver” within the bill concerned members of the committee and interested parties.
Annette Bendish, legal counsel for the North Dakota School Boards Association, said she would support the bill with an amendment that would exempt teachers and administrators from the bill.
Concerns about the age of a child under the proposed law were also addressed.
Currently, a child is considered anyone under the age of 18. Sen. Kelly Armstrong pointed out many 17-year-old kids that grew up in a rural setting are often independent and can handle being away from a guardian for longer than 24 hours.
“There’s a big difference not reporting a 3-year-old who has been missing for a few hours then your 17-year-old who you got in a fight with,” Armstrong said.
Janelle Moos, director of the North Dakota Council on Abused Women’s Services, said she supports the bill as well, but would like to see an amendment that allowed children to be gone longer than 24 hours in certain domestic violence cases.
“My concern is a victim of domestic violence chooses to be missing with a child,” she said. “There may be reasons a mother may want to leave domestic violence situations.”
Reitan said domestic violence is a frequent occurrence that didn’t come up in discussion when law enforcement met Tuesday.
“I have witnessed victims escaping through disappearing for a short period of time,” he said.
No action was taken on the measure.
Jump start to road
Statewide construction projects could get an early jump start before the snow thaws out.
State Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks, has proposed Senate Bill 2176 which would appropriate $620 million to the Department of Transportation for construction and maintenance of state highways.
If passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Jack Dalrymple, projects would be able to immediately start the bidding process and engineering work, Holmberg said. Projects usually have to wait until July 1, when the new fiscal year begins.
“We hope to get it passed out of the chamber quickly,” he said.
The bill will be in front of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday.