ASHANTI ALERT ACT OF 2018; Congressional Record Vol. 164, No. 158
(House of Representatives - September 25, 2018)

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[Pages H8817-H8820]
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                       ASHANTI ALERT ACT OF 2018

  Mr. CHABOT. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the 
bill (H.R. 5075) to encourage, enhance, and integrate Ashanti Alert 
plans throughout the United States, and for other purposes, as amended.
  The Clerk read the title of the bill.
  The text of the bill is as follows:

                               H.R. 5075

       Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of 
     the United States of America in Congress assembled,

     SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

       This Act may be cited as the ``Ashanti Alert Act of 2018''.

     SEC. 2. DEFINITIONS.

       In this Act:
       (1) Missing adult.--The term ``missing adult'' means an 
     individual who--
       (A) is older than the age for which an AMBER alert may be 
     issued in the State in which the individual is identified as 
     a missing person;
       (B) is identified by a law enforcement agency as a missing 
     person; and
       (C) meets the requirements to be designated as a missing 
     adult, as determined by the State in which the individual is 
     identified as a missing person.
       (2) State.--The term ``State'' means each of the 50 States, 
     the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, 
     the United States Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and 
     the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
       (3) Ashanti alert.--The term ``Ashanti Alert'' means an 
     alert issued through the Ashanti Alert communications 
     network, related to a missing adult.

     SEC. 3. ASHANTI ALERT COMMUNICATIONS NETWORK.

       (a) In General.--The Attorney General shall, subject to the 
     availability of appropriations, establish a national 
     communications network, to be known as the Ashanti Alert 
     communications network, within the Department of Justice to 
     provide assistance to regional and local search efforts for 
     missing adults through the initiation, facilitation, and 
     promotion of local elements of the network (referred to in 
     this Act as ``Ashanti Alert plans''), in coordination with 
     States, units of local government, law enforcement agencies, 
     and other concerned entities with expertise in providing 
     services to adults.
       (b) Integration With Blue Alert Communications Network.--In 
     establishing the Ashanti Alert communications network under 
     subsection (a), the Attorney General shall integrate the 
     Ashanti Alert communications network into the Blue Alert 
     communications network established under the Rafael Ramos and 
     Wenjian Liu National Blue Alert Act of 2015 (34 U.S.C. 50501 
     et seq.), to maximize the efficiency of both networks.

     SEC. 4. ASHANTI ALERT COORDINATOR.

       (a) National Coordinator Within Department of Justice.--The 
     Attorney General shall designate an individual of the 
     Department of Justice to act as the national coordinator of 
     the Ashanti Alert communications network. The individual so 
     designated shall be known as the Ashanti Alert Coordinator of 
     the Department of Justice (referred to in this Act as the 
     ``Coordinator'').
       (b) Duties of the Coordinator.--In acting as the national 
     coordinator of the Ashanti Alert communications network, the 
     Coordinator shall--
       (1) work with States to encourage the development of 
     additional Ashanti Alert plans in the network;
       (2) establish voluntary guidelines for States to use in 
     developing Ashanti Alert plans that will promote compatible 
     and integrated Ashanti Alert plans throughout the United 
     States, including--
       (A) a list of the resources necessary to establish an 
     Ashanti Alert plan;
       (B) criteria for evaluating whether a situation warrants 
     issuing an Ashanti Alert, taking into consideration the need 
     for the use of such Alerts to be limited in scope because the 
     effectiveness of the Ashanti Alert communications network may 
     be affected by overuse, including criteria to determine--
       (i) whether the mental capacity of an adult who is missing, 
     and the circumstances of his or her disappearance, warrant 
     the issuance of an Ashanti Alert; and
       (ii) whether the individual who reports that an adult is 
     missing is an appropriate and credible source on which to 
     base the issuance of an Ashanti Alert;
       (C) a description of the appropriate uses of the Ashanti 
     Alert name to readily identify the nature of search efforts 
     for missing adults; and
       (D) recommendations on how to protect the privacy, dignity, 
     independence, and autonomy of any missing adult who may be 
     the subject of an Ashanti Alert;
       (3) develop proposed protocols for efforts to recover 
     missing adults and to reduce the number of adults who are 
     reported missing, including protocols for procedures that are 
     needed from the time of initial notification of a law 
     enforcement agency that the adult is missing through the time 
     of the return of the adult to family, guardian, or domicile, 
     as appropriate, including--
       (A) public safety communications protocol;
       (B) case management protocol;
       (C) command center operations;
       (D) reunification protocol; and
       (E) incident review, evaluation, debriefing, and public 
     information procedures;
       (4) work with States to ensure appropriate regional 
     coordination of various elements of the network;
       (5) establish an advisory group to assist States, units of 
     local government, law enforcement agencies, and other 
     entities involved in the Ashanti Alert communications network 
     with initiating, facilitating, and promoting Ashanti Alert 
     plans, which shall include--
       (A) to the maximum extent practicable, representation from 
     the various geographic regions of the United States; and
       (B) members who are--
       (i) representatives of adult citizen advocacy groups, law 
     enforcement agencies, and public safety communications;

[[Page H8818]]

       (ii) broadcasters, first responders, dispatchers, and radio 
     station personnel; and
       (iii) representatives of any other individuals or 
     organizations that the Coordinator determines are necessary 
     to the success of the Ashanti Alert communications network; 
     and
       (6) act as the nationwide point of contact for--
       (A) the development of the network; and
       (B) regional coordination of alerts for missing adults 
     through the network.
       (c) Coordination.--
       (1) Coordination with other agencies.--The Coordinator 
     shall coordinate and consult with the Secretary of 
     Transportation, the Federal Communications Commission, the 
     Assistant Secretary for Aging of the Department of Health and 
     Human Services, and other appropriate offices of the 
     Department of Justice in carrying out activities under this 
     Act.
       (2) State and local coordination.--The Coordinator shall 
     consult with local broadcasters and State and local law 
     enforcement agencies in establishing minimum standards under 
     section 5 and in carrying out other activities under this 
     Act, as appropriate.
       (d) Annual Reports.--Not later than one year after the date 
     of enactment of this Act, and annually thereafter, the 
     Coordinator shall submit to Congress a report on the 
     activities of the Coordinator and the effectiveness and 
     status of the Ashanti Alert plans of each State that has 
     established or is in the process of establishing such a plan. 
     Each such report shall include--
       (1) a list of States that have established Ashanti Alert 
     plans;
       (2) a list of States that are in the process of 
     establishing Ashanti Alert plans;
       (3) for each State that has established such a plan, to the 
     extent the data is available--
       (A) the number of Ashanti Alerts issued;
       (B) the number of individuals located successfully;
       (C) the average period of time between the issuance of an 
     Ashanti Alert and the location of the individual for whom 
     such Alert was issued;
       (D) the State agency or authority issuing Ashanti Alerts, 
     and the process by which Ashanti Alerts are disseminated;
       (E) the cost of establishing and operating such a plan;
       (F) the criteria used by the State to determine whether to 
     issue an Ashanti Alert; and
       (G) the extent to which missing individuals for whom 
     Ashanti Alerts were issued crossed State lines;
       (4) actions States have taken to protect the privacy and 
     dignity of the individuals for whom Ashanti Alerts are 
     issued;
       (5) ways that States have facilitated and improved 
     communication about missing individuals between families, 
     caregivers, law enforcement officials, and other authorities; 
     and
       (6) any other information the Coordinator determines to be 
     appropriate.

     SEC. 5. MINIMUM STANDARDS FOR ISSUANCE AND DISSEMINATION OF 
                   ALERTS THROUGH ASHANTI ALERT COMMUNICATIONS 
                   NETWORK.

       (a) Establishment of Minimum Standards.--Subject to 
     subsection (b), the Coordinator shall establish minimum 
     standards for--
       (1) the issuance of alerts through the Ashanti Alert 
     communications network; and
       (2) the extent of the dissemination of alerts issued 
     through the network.
       (b) Limitations.--
       (1) Voluntary participation.--The minimum standards 
     established under subsection (a) of this section, and any 
     other guidelines and programs established under section 4, 
     shall be adoptable on a voluntary basis only.
       (2) Dissemination of information.--The minimum standards 
     shall, to the maximum extent practicable (as determined by 
     the Coordinator in consultation with State and local law 
     enforcement agencies), provide that appropriate information 
     relating to the special needs of a missing adult (including 
     health care needs) are disseminated to the appropriate law 
     enforcement, public health, and other public officials.
       (3) Geographic areas.--The minimum standards shall, to the 
     maximum extent practicable (as determined by the Coordinator 
     in consultation with State and local law enforcement 
     agencies), provide that the dissemination of an alert through 
     the Ashanti Alert communications network be limited to the 
     geographic areas which the missing adult could reasonably 
     reach, considering the missing adult's circumstances and 
     physical and mental condition, the modes of transportation 
     available to the missing adult, and the circumstances of the 
     disappearance.
       (4) Other requirements.--The minimum standards shall 
     include requirements that the missing person--
       (A) suffers from a proven mental or physical disability, as 
     documented by a source determined credible to an appropriate 
     law enforcement entity; or
       (B) is missing under circumstances that indicate, as 
     determined by an appropriate law enforcement entity--
       (i) that the person's physical safety may be endangered; or
       (ii) that the person's disappearance may not have been 
     voluntary, including an abduction or kidnapping.
       (5) Privacy and civil liberties protections.--The minimum 
     standards shall--
       (A) ensure that alerts issued through the Ashanti Alert 
     communications network comply with all applicable Federal, 
     State, and local privacy laws and regulations; and
       (B) include standards that specifically provide for the 
     protection of the civil liberties and sensitive medical 
     information of missing adults.
       (6) State and local voluntary coordination.--In carrying 
     out the activities under subsection (a), the Coordinator may 
     not interfere with the current system of voluntary 
     coordination between local broadcasters and State and local 
     law enforcement agencies for purposes of the Ashanti Alert 
     communications network.

     SEC. 6. TRAINING AND EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS.

       The Coordinator shall make available to States, units of 
     local government, law enforcement agencies, and other 
     concerned entities that are involved in initiating, 
     facilitating, or promoting Ashanti Alert plans, including 
     broadcasters, first responders, dispatchers, public safety 
     communications personnel, and radio station personnel--
       (1) training and educational programs related to the 
     Ashanti Alert communications network and the capabilities, 
     limitations, and anticipated behaviors of missing adults, 
     which shall be updated regularly to encourage the use of new 
     tools, technologies, and resources in Ashanti Alert plans; 
     and
       (2) informational materials, including brochures, videos, 
     posters, and web sites to support and supplement such 
     training and educational programs.

     SEC. 7. AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.

       There is authorized to be appropriated to the Attorney 
     General $3,000,000 to carry out the Ashanti Alert 
     communications network as authorized under this Act for each 
     of fiscal years 2019 through 2022.

     SEC. 8. EMERGENCY FEDERAL LAW ENFORCEMENT ASSISTANCE.

       Section 609Y(a) of the Justice Assistance Act of 1984 (34 
     U.S.C. 50112(a)) is amended by striking ``September 30, 
     2021'' and inserting ``September 30, 2022''.

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentleman from 
Ohio (Mr. Chabot) and the gentlewoman from Texas (Ms. Jackson Lee) each 
will control 20 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Ohio.


                             General Leave

  Mr. CHABOT. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members 
have 5 legislative days to revise and extend their remarks and include 
extraneous materials on H.R. 5075, currently under consideration.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentleman from Ohio?
  There was no objection.
  Mr. CHABOT. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
  Mr. Speaker, we will vote today on H.R. 5075, the Ashanti Alert Act 
of 2018. This bill establishes a national alert network for missing 
adults at the Department of Justice. It will allow law enforcement to 
coordinate the use of communication systems to alert the public that an 
adult is missing.
  In order to issue an alert, the missing adult must either suffer from 
a proven mental or physical disability, or law enforcement must certify 
the person's physical safety may be in danger, or their disappearance 
was not voluntary.
  This Ashanti national alert network will be integrated into the 
existing Blue Alert system. The Blue Alert system issues alerts to 
notify the public of nearby suspects or threats to their community's 
law enforcement officials.
  This legislation will also allow the Attorney General to designate a 
national coordinator to work with States to establish alert systems for 
missing adults and to develop voluntary guidelines States may use in 
creating their networks.
  Mr. Speaker, I want to thank Scott Taylor for introducing this 
legislation. We appreciate Mr. Taylor being here today and appreciate 
his leadership in this effort.
  I ask my colleagues to support this bill, and I reserve the balance 
of my time.
  Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may 
consume.
  Mr. Speaker, let me say to the manager of this bill that I am 
delighted to stand with him on this very important legislative 
initiative. Having been in this body for a period of time, I am 
reminded of the AMBER Alert. I was here when it was initiated and 
passed by my friend Martin Frost, who was formerly in this body. And 
then I believe a lot of work was done on the Silver Alert by our 
colleague Maxine Waters. We all worked together, I remember, on 
amendments in the House Judiciary Committee on these very issues.
  So I rise in support of H.R. 5075, the Ashanti Alert Act of 2018. It 
is a commonsense initiative to realize that whoever is missing, we need 
to help find those individuals.

[[Page H8819]]

  This bill seeks to establish a national communications network within 
the Department of Justice to help locate missing adults by providing 
assistance to regional and local search efforts.
  For our colleagues, obviously, the AMBER Alert dealt with children, 
and the Silver Alert dealt with senior citizens over, I believe, the 
age of 65. This bill would initiate, facilitate, and promote Ashanti 
Alert plans in coordination with States, units of local government, law 
enforcement agencies, and other concerned entities with expertise in 
providing services to adults. These are laudable goals and, as a 
Congress, ones which we have a duty to facilitate.
  As of December 31, 2017, the National Crime Information Center 
database included records of 55,968 missing adults. In my own hometown, 
in the last 3 weeks, two adults went missing who were brother and 
sister. First, the brother went missing, and there was absolutely no 
sign of that individual. The sister went to look for that individual, 
and, of course, then they were both missing.
  Tragically, we found, ultimately, that a relative had disposed of and 
killed both of them. If we had an alert system, maybe we would have 
been able to find them sooner.
  In fact, many adults go missing each year who are not found until it 
is too late. Such was the case after whom this bill was named, Ashanti 
Billie.
  At 19 years of age, she was abducted from her workplace in Virginia, 
taken across State lines, and later found dead in North Carolina. 
Ashanti Billie was too old for the issuance of an AMBER Alert on her 
behalf and too young for a Silver Alert.
  This bill fills in the gap for people like Ashanti Billie, missing 
adults between the ages of 18 and 64, and it does so in coordination 
with the Blue Alert communications network, which Congress established. 
The Blue Alert establishes a nationwide network of Blue Alerts to warn 
about threats to police officers and help track down the suspects who 
carry them out.
  While drawing on the Blue Alert Network, the Ashanti Alert Act 
requires implementing jurisdictions to the established plans and 
includes minimum standards and resources that help in this case. Had 
these resources been available when Ashanti was abducted, she may still 
be here with us today.
  For these reasons, I support this legislation, and I reserve the 
balance of my time.
  Mr. CHABOT. Mr. Speaker, I yield such time as he may consume to the 
gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Taylor).
  Mr. TAYLOR. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of my bill, H.R. 
5075, the Ashanti Alert Act, named for Ashanti Billie, who was 
tragically taken from this world too soon last September at the hands 
of a violent criminal. And so now we have undertaken this action with 
this bill, a bipartisan one, because this is not a partisan issue.
  The United States does not currently have an alert system for missing 
adults. If a child or a senior citizen goes missing, law enforcement is 
authorized to broadcast alerts on major channels or radio stations, and 
participating citizens share alerts across social media platforms, 
bringing much-needed attention and resources to bear. But still, no 
such alert exists for missing adults ages 18 to 65.

  History shows that programs like the AMBER Alert are successful and 
help save lives. In 2016 alone, there were 179 AMBER Alerts issued in 
the United States. Over 85 of those cases resulted in recovery, and 43 
of them were the direct result of an AMBER Alert. These programs are 
proven to work, and with the Ashanti Alert, we can close the gap, 
better protect our family, friends, and neighbors, and save lives with 
a legacy given to us by Ashanti Billie's sacrifice.
  Like other alert systems, the Ashanti Alert lets law enforcement use 
the tools at their disposal to broadcast information about missing 
adults on such things as TV, radio, and social media. It also sets a 
minimum standard for issuing alerts: one, the person suffers from a 
proven mental or physical disability; two, if law enforcement believes 
their physical safety is in danger; or three, if they believe their 
disappearance may not have been voluntary.
  The Ashanti Alert also integrates with the Blue Alert Network instead 
of AMBER so that information about missing adults and children are kept 
separate. This ensures that law enforcement efforts are not duplicated, 
which could mean the difference between locating a person and saving 
them.
  The Commonwealth of Virginia, has already taken steps to address this 
issue. Last April, the Governor signed a bill into law in honor of 
Ashanti that establishes a statewide alert system for missing adults. 
But in order to save lives, the search for missing adults cannot end at 
a State line.
  Indeed, according to the FBI's National Crime Information Center, 
there are still over 55,000 missing adults in this country. This is a 
national challenge, and it most definitely demands a national response.
  Mr. Speaker, Ashanti Billie was a beautiful, young Black woman with a 
beaming smile. She was a hard worker. She would wake up before sunrise 
and head to the naval base and start her job. At night, she attended 
culinary classes at the Virginia Beach Art Institute. She had hopes and 
dreams and aspirations, and she was passionate about life and brought 
that positive energy to everyone who met her.
  Mr. Speaker, 1 year ago today, early in the morning, I met with local 
constituents, Kimberly Wimbush and Michael Muhammad; the Billie 
family--parents, Tony and Brandy; and Dyotha Sweat from the NAACP. 
Being military veterans themselves, the Billie family didn't understand 
how this could happen. They were confused and very much worried.

                              {time}  1830

  Their young daughter, Ashanti, was missing, abducted from the Little 
Creek naval base.
  Mr. Speaker, I knew right then that fateful morning, in my gut and in 
my heart, that this family would soon receive some tragic news. I knew 
this family and these friends needed my help. My heart and my team's 
hearts were with them.
  Mr. Speaker, there are no words, no wishes, or no whispers that can 
bring back or ease the Billie family burden. But make no mistake about 
it, no amount of darkness can ever keep out a bright light.
  I may have met with a shaken family that day, but on this day, they 
sit before us today, in this Chamber, strong, determined, and ready to 
solidify Ashanti's legacy.
  Today's vote on Ashanti's legacy will give law enforcement all across 
our great Nation a new tool to bring resources to bear to locate 
missing adults who may be in danger, and will, no doubt, save lives.
  Mr. Speaker, I encourage my colleagues' support.
  Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Speaker, could I inquire if the gentleman has 
any further speakers.
  Mr. CHABOT. Mr. Speaker, I have no further speakers. It was my 
understanding that the gentlewoman would like to participate in a 
colloquy.
  Ms. JACKSON LEE. Will the gentleman yield?
  Mr. CHABOT. I yield to the gentlewoman from Texas.
  Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Speaker, I am concerned that H.R. 5075 does not 
explicitly include Native American tribes in the missing adult 
communications network that the bill would establish. It is my 
understanding that this network would be established and implemented by 
the same office at the Department of Justice that implements the Blue 
Alert system, which includes outreach to tribal partners to educate 
them on that network.
  I would like to confirm with the chairman that it is the intent of 
Congress that this same outreach to tribes be conducted with respect to 
the missing adult communications network.
  Mr. CHABOT. The gentlewoman is correct. This outreach to tribes shall 
be conducted in the same manner as the Blue Alert program, yes.
  Ms. JACKSON LEE. I thank the gentleman.
  Mr. Speaker, I yield myself the remainder of my time.
  Mr. Speaker, in closing, let me thank the proponent of this 
legislation, Mr. Taylor, for a very thoughtful initiative, one that is 
needed. It is tragic when we lose our constituents, but more 
importantly, when the families lose their loved ones.
  Mr. Speaker, I support this legislation. By coordinating with 
existing

[[Page H8820]]

networks, H.R. 5075 will facilitate the establishment of a 
communications network for alerts concerning missing adults and have an 
impact far beyond what it will take to establish it.
  I am heartened by Mr. Chabot's clarification that this bill is 
intended to extend to tribal entities and Native American reservations.
  This past May, we commemorated the second National Day of Awareness 
for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls to bring awareness 
about how this problem specifically affects Native American 
communities. I am hopeful that this bill can help address this very 
serious problem, and the overall bill that addresses the need for 
families to find their loved ones after the ages of children and before 
the ages of senior citizen. We can always do more to help local missing 
adults and to save them. There are families in my district right now 
who are suffering from the loss of their brother or sister.
  Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 5075, the ``Ashanti Alert Act 
of 2018.''
  This bill seeks to establish a national communications network within 
the Department of Justice to help locate missing adults by providing 
assistance to regional and local search efforts. The bill would 
initiate, facilitate, and promote Ashanti Alert plans in coordination 
with states, units of local government, law enforcement agencies, and 
other concerned entities with expertise in providing services to 
adults.
  These are laudable goals and, as a Congress, ones which we have a 
duty to facilitate. As of December 31, 2017, the National Crime 
Information Center database included records of 55,968 missing adults. 
In fact, many adults go missing each year who are not found--until it 
is too late.
  Such was the case of the young woman after whom this bill is named--
Ashanti Billie. At 19 years of age, she was abducted from her workplace 
in Virginia, taken across state lines, and later found dead in North 
Carolina. Ashanti Billie was too old for the issuance of an Amber Alert 
on her behalf, and too young for a Silver Alert.
  The Ashanti Alert Act seeks to fill in the gap for people like 
Ashanti Billie--missing adults between the ages of 18 and 64. And it 
does so in coordination with the Blue Alert Communications Network, 
which Congress established in 2015, under the Blue Alert Act. The Blue 
Alert Act established a nationwide network of ``blue alerts'' to warn 
about threats to police officers and help track down the suspects who 
carry them out.
  While drawing on the Blue Alert network, the Ashanti Alert Act 
requires implementing jurisdictions to establish plans that include 
minimum standards to ensure that resources are used adequately, 
accurately and efficiently. Had these resources been available when 
Ashanti Billie was abducted, she may still be here today.
  For all these reasons, I enthusiastically support this legislation 
and encourage my colleagues to support it.

  Mr. Speaker, I support this legislation. By coordinating with 
existing networks, H.R. 5075 will facilitate the establishment of a 
communications network for alerts concerning missing adults and have an 
impact far beyond what it will take to establish it.
  And I am heartened by Mr. Goodlatte's clarification that this bill is 
intended to extend to tribal entities and Native American reservations.
  This past May, we commemorated the second National Day of Awareness 
for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls--to bring awareness 
about how this problem specifically affects Native American 
communities. I am hopeful that this bill can help address this very 
serious problem.
  We can always do more to help locate missing adults and to save 
lives.
  Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to support the Ashanti Alert Act of 
2018, and I yield back the balance of my time.
  Mr. CHABOT. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself the remainder of my time.
  Mr. Speaker, in closing, on behalf of all Members of the House, I 
would like to offer my condolences to the family of Ashanti.
  Mr. Speaker, I thank Mr. Taylor for his leadership in proposing this 
very important legislation. Hopefully, other people will benefit from 
its passage.
  Mr. Speaker, I urge all my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to 
support it, and I yield back the balance of my time.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on the motion offered by the 
gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Chabot) that the House suspend the rules and 
pass the bill, H.R. 5075, as amended.
  The question was taken; and (two-thirds being in the affirmative) the 
rules were suspended and the bill, as amended, was passed.
  A motion to reconsider was laid on the table.

                          ____________________