Brandon's Law made good progress in the Legislature Thursday, Rep. Marty Seifert, R-Marshall said Friday.
Seifert is the chief author of the bill which addresses how law enforcement handles missing persons cases. The bill is named for Brandon Swanson of Marshall who was 19 when he was reported missing in May. Swanson has not been found after numerous searches in areas near the Yellow Medicine River in parts of Lincoln, Lyon and Yellow Medicine counties.
The bill was passed unanimously in a House committee, Seifert said. It will now be reviewed by with him as the chief author, the speaker of the House as the second author and committee chairman as third author, the bill has an excellent chance of becoming law, Seifert said.
"That's a good lineup," Seifert said of the bill's authors.
"The issue we're trying to get at is people are missing because of different circumstances," Seifert said. "Brandon did not choose to be missing. It wasn't something he chose like to go to Las Vegas and be missing."
Swanson's parents, Brian and Annette Swanson of Marshall, worked with Seifert to help craft a bill and changes they'd like to see in missing persons cases. In an earlier February interview with the Independent, the Swansons said data is not being collected for many missing adults in Minnesota and there is risk that missing persons will remain unidentified indefinitely without adequate data. Also, local law enforcement and the state need more resources and networking on missing person cases, the Swansons said.
It was important during this year's budget situation that Brandon's Law not have any fiscal impact on the budget, Seifert said.
"There will be no money needed right now to get some state upgrades," Seifert said.
The Swansons said they know more changes could be made but were aware at this time, those that could cost money would need to wait.
Seifert said the national clearinghouse and other database sources are a concern. Law enforcement, through the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, is supposed to submit DNA and other data on missing persons from Minnesota.
That data isn't being collected as well as it should, Seifert said.
"In many cases, they are not getting data on dental records, DNA, eye color...," Seifert said.
Yet, he and the Swansons are aware some adults want to be missing because they may be in danger from an abusive spouse or similar situation, Seifert said.
"We don't want to jeopardize anyone...," Seifert said.
The bill also focuses on the need for access to search training and search and rescue organizations that are available for use.
Seifert was also busy with two other pieces of legislation Thursday.
A welfare reform bill failed in committee. Seifert's bill would have required those moving from another state into Minnesota to qualify for the same benefits as in their prior state of residence for one year. After a year, they may qualify for Minnesota benefits.
The most recent number available is from 2007 which showed more than 13,000 welfare recipients moved to Minnesota from another state, Seifert said. Those recipients enrolled in one or more of four available programs, Seifert said.
Opponents said the California Supreme Court ruled a one year plan was unconstitutional, Seifert said. But opponents weren't interested in a 90 day or even 60 day plan, Seifert said.
Wisconsin requires new residents to have benefits the same as their prior state of residence for 60 days, Seifert said.
Seifert did get a win with a free speech action that was approved on the House floor.
Democrats had raised concerns and frustration from the media because media was being required to register at committee meetings and note if they planned to record or photograph the public meeting, Seifert said.
Seifert's proposal dismantles those requirements and others that were being made.