10/05/05 It's the Law
It's not just a dream in my head anymore. Today the Nebraska State Patrol issued their press release announcing the beginning of the work they are doing to put all the elements of Jason's Law into place.
Officially entitled LB111, Jason's Law establishes what I refer to as a true Missing Person's Clearinghouse in the State of Nebraska. By federal law, each state is required to have a missing children's clearinghouse. As a minimum, these clearinghouses keep data in regards to missing children. That's it. Some states took another step and have benefits and services tied to this. Some had websites that featured photos and information about missing children. A few included adults in their assistance.
In June of 2002, just one year after Jason's disappearance, I approached my state senator, Patrick Bourne, about my proposal for this true clearinghouse. I explained that my research showed that we had no tangible benefits for families of the missing provided in state law. I had been doing research on the Internet for months, and felt that Iowa had a fairly comprehensive law in regards to this. I told Sen. Bourne I wanted to pattern a law for NE after the IA code. He agreed his office would help with this. I knew nothing about how to go about getting a law passed.
Timeline for Jason's Law from Jason's website:
Late Spring/early Summer 2002: I researched state law and other state's laws in regards to missing persons.
June 16th, 2002: Senator Patrick Bourne has agreed to be our sponsor for Jason's Law. He will introduce this law in the next legislative session, which will commence on January 5th, 2003. His office will now spearhead the research into this vital issue & take steps to draft the law as per Nebraska mandate.
August 13, 2002: Even with the budget woes in the state of Nebraska, we will press on with the proposed law. Although it may not be passed in the next legislative session, proposing the law will bring about more public awareness & ensure our lawmakers understand the importance of this issue, which has languished for far too long.
October 13, 2002: Senator Bourne's office is busy researching missing person's laws across the country in preparation for the drafting of Jason's Law. We stay in contact with them often. I will be speaking about this very important issue at the First Baptist Church in Lincoln on October 16th.
January 10th, 2003: LB203 was presented to the 98th Nebraska State Legislative session today. You can read the text of Jason's Law by going to this website, typing in "203" (Now 111) into the "search by number" box and then clicking on the submit button.
February 13th, 2003: A hearing for LB203 is now scheduled for Thursday, February 27th at the State Capitol building in Lincoln. The exact time and location will be announced.
February 27th, 2003: We presented Jason's Law, LB203 to the Judiciary Committee on February 27th.
Remainder of 2003: As the state of Nebraska is currently facing a budget deficit, the bill did not get passed from the committee to the Senate floor for debate in the 2003 session.
October 2003: As it appears that Jason's Law may not pass for some time due to budget woes in our state, (but we won't give up) we set about to find another way to assist others. In October 2003, Project Jason was born. This nonprofit corporation, founded in the state of Nebraska, will compliment the future Jason's Law, but in the meantime, our families will have somewhere to turn if they have a loved one missing.
March 28, 2004: LB203 was finally passed out of committee, however, as this is a short legislative session, it may not even come up for debate. We will then start the process all over again next year. I will keep working at this until Jason's Law is passed. All of our efforts will be well worth it.
May 29, 2004: Jason's Law did not get to the Senate floor for debate this year, so we are working on preparing it for next year. I believe that with the help of many who stand behind us, we will get it passed in the next session.
February 11th, 2005: Jim, Michael and I went to Lincoln to testify before the Judiciary Committee for Jason's Law, LB111. (Type in 111 in the search box for updates and to read the text of the bill.) We have higher hopes for the law to get further along in the process this time. People are beginning to understand the need for the state to help these families, and that it isn't just a once in a while occurrence. The same day we were testifying, a new missing person's case drew media attention in Omaha. That night, we started to try to contact that family. We are now assisting them through Project Jason.
Februrary 25th, 2005: I was informed that LB111, Jason's Law, was passed out of committee to be debated on the senate floor. We do not know when this will occur. When appropriate, we will launch a letter writing campaign statewide to gain support for this important bill. We'll provide more information when that time comes.
March 26, 2005: Jason's Law was debated on the Senate floor for the first time on Wednesday. Prior to that, we had launched a letter writing campaign to the senators to let them know how important this bill is to Nebraska families. Jason's Law passed through this first stage of debate 37-0. We are all so very thrilled about this. There will be two more stages before the bill goes to the governor's desk to sign into law. We do not know a timeframe to the next level, called Select File. We'll let you know. And so to Jason, wherever you are, we love you, we miss you, and we know you would want this.
May 28th, 2005: Jason's Law has now passed through rounds two and three of debate with no votes against it. It will now go to the Governor to sign or veto. We feel confident that he will sign it. We do not know the timeframe for this to take place. Once it is signed, it takes effect in three months. I met the woman who heads the clearinghouse division of the Nebraska State Patrol on one of my trips. I hope they will allow me to have input on the process when the time comes. I also told her that I would like to see at least a brief history of the bill on the site, as it seems highly appropriate to honor Jason.
May 31st, 2005: We're pleased to say that Jason's Law passed and was signed by the Governor on May 31st. It will go into effect on September 3rd. No matter what our outcome, Jason's life has had a positive and lasting effect upon the lives of others. One person can have an impact, and even more miraculously, one person who is not even here with us. Now that's a miracle and a blessing in my book.
September 3rd, 2005: Jason's Law took effect today. It is not yet all in place. I hope they will acknowlege the person responsible for the passage of this bill, which is Jason.
October 4th, 2005: The Nebraska State Patrol issues a press release about the clearinghouse.
Link to NE State Clearinghouse in progress: http://www.nsp.state.ne.us/findfile.asp?id2=53
It seems incredible that this has happened. I don't know whether to laugh or cry because of the nature of it all.
In a perfect world, there would be no missing people, no need for Jason's Law, and I would have my son.
But it's not a perfect world, just hopefully one that's just a little bit better, and it's all because of the mysterious disappearance of a quiet young man named Jason Jolkowski.
Thursday, October 6th marks the 2 year anniversary of Project Jason. I'll be sharing my thoughts as well as comments from the families we serve on that day.