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Smarts Demand Lawmakers Pass Amber Alert Bill

Smarts Demand Lawmakers Pass Amber Alert Bill

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The reunited family of Elizabeth Smart challenged House Republican leaders Thursday to pass a national Amber Alert bill, accusing them of "hurting children" by delaying it.

Ed Smart, Elizabeth's father, took aim first at Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner for refusing to break the proposal out of a larger piece of legislation and let it slide through the House alone, as it has in the Senate.

"His unwillingness to let the Amber Alert pass on its own is hurting children. He is hurting children," Smart said of the Wisconsin Republican on CBS's "The Early Show."

"I am calling on House leadership to, this day, bring the Amber bill to the floor and pass it," Smart said. "Show us that there is some House leadership."

For his part, Sensenbrenner, said the proposal is better off as part of a broader piece of legislation which would raise penalties for certain crimes against children and boost funding for child abuse and abduction prevention.

Thirty-eight states have passed Amber Alert laws, he noted, and the Bush administration already has directed $10 million to hire a national Amber network coordinator, train workers and upgrade equipment.

He asked the Smart family to be patient.

"There is more to this issue than the Amber Alert," Sensenbrenner said on NBC's "Today" show. "Work with us rather than attack us and we'll get that ball across the goal line very soon."

Elizabeth Smart, 15, was reunited with her family Wednesday, nine months after being kidnapped from her bedroom in an affluent Salt Lake City suburb.

Amber Alerts are named after Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old girl abducted in Arlington, Texas, and later found murdered. They are bulletins distributed quickly through radio and television broadcasts and electronic highway signs about kidnapped children and their abductors. They are credited with the rescues of at least 34 children since 1996, the Justice Department has reported.

The Senate in January unanimously passed legislation to spend $25 million on a national Amber network and provide matching grants to states and communities for equipment and training.

The House and the Senate passed versions of the bill last year, as well, but were unable to agree on the specifics before recessing. House members tacked several more controversial measures onto the Amber Alert last year.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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