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Associated Press, Published January 17 2013

ND lawmakers considering version of Florida's 'Caylee's Law'

BISMARCK – North Dakota is the latest state to consider its own version of Florida’s Caylee’s Law, with state lawmakers pondering a bill that would require caregivers of children to meet deadlines in reporting children missing or dead.

Senate Bill 2125 has support from numerous organizations, including YMCAs of North Dakota and the state School Boards Association, but even supporters say work needs to be done on the proposal to ensure it does not have unexpected consequences.

Florida’s Caylee’s Law was passed following the death of 2-year-old Caylee Anthony, who was not reported missing until 31 days after she vanished in 2008 in Orlando.

At least 11 states, including South Dakota, have enacted such laws and at least eight others are considering them, according to the National Council of State Legislatures. In South Dakota, the law was used by prosecutors for the first time last year to charge two adults accused of failing to immediately notify police of the death of a 2-year-old girl found in a closet at their rural home.

The proposed North Dakota law would require caregivers to report a child missing within 24 hours of a disappearance and to report a death within two hours. Sen. Tyler Axness, D-Fargo, who is sponsoring the bill, said he did not know of a case in North Dakota that would have fallen under such a law.

“I hope this is one of those bills we enact that we never have to use,” Axness told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. “We want to have the tools necessary in case this does come about.”

Sen. Kelly Armstrong, R-Dickinson, questioned how the matter would be handled in the case of a 16- or 17-year-old who runs away repeatedly or in the case of mature and independent teenagers. Annette Bendish, attorney for the North Dakota School Boards Association, expressed concern that school officials could face penalties under the bill. Attorney Jack McDonald, representing YMCAs of North Dakota, said day cares also could be considered caregivers, and many day cares accept drop-ins and do not know when or if a child is going to be there. Janelle Moos, executive director of the North Dakota Council on Abused Women’s Services, wondered what would happen if an abused woman took her children and left without telling anyone to escape a dangerous situation.

Sen. Spencer Berry, R-Fargo, suggested that many of the concerns could be cleared up by replacing “caregivers” with “guardians.”

The committee did not immediately act on the bill.