Senate to Vote on Amber Alert Bill

Bill would create nationwide Amber Alert network to fill gaps in existing systems.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP) -- The Senate is trying to put an Amber Alert system in every state with legislation that would create a nationwide network to help find missing children.

The legislation considered Tuesday by the Senate would spend $25 million next year to create a national Amber network and provide matching grants to states and communities for equipment and training.

"This bill helps fill the gaps that exist in the current patchwork of Amber systems," Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, said. "It also provides much-needed resources for states and communities to build their own systems and spread vital information to surrounding jurisdictions with a single phone call. This is vital if an abducted child is taken across state lines. The first few hours are critical to a child's safe recovery, so Congress should grant law enforcement every available tool."

The Justice Department, which requested an additional $2.5 million in the budget year starting Oct. 31 to help train law enforcement officers on use of the Amber Alert system, says at least 33 states already have versions of the system.

Amber Alerts are credited with the rescues of at least 34 children since 1996, the department says.

"Amber Alerts work, and this bill gives a green light to expand Amber Alerts nationwide," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. "Our nation's children, parents and grandparents deserve our help to stop the disturbing trend of child abductions."

The House and the Senate passed versions of the Amber Alert bill last year but were unable to agree on the bill before leaving for the year.

If the bill passes the Senate, it will go to the House. A similar version is expected to be introduced there next week.

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