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House Passes Two Children’s Safety Bills

Protecting Our Children Comes First Act

On December 5, the House passed, 408-3, the Protecting Our Children Comes First Act (H.R. 2517).

Sponsored by Rep. Nick Lampson (D-TX), the bill would reauthorize the annual grant to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The current authorization (P.L. 108-96) expires at the end of FY2008. The bill would authorize $40 million for the Center in FY2008 and “such sums as may be necessary” for FY2009 through 2013. The legislation also would mandate a 24-hour, toll-free hotline to report information about missing children and would require the Center to issue annual statistical reports on the number of missing and abducted children.

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) praised the National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Throwaway Children authorized in the legislation, adding, “H.R. 2517 strengthens the ability of the Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and its programs, including the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, to work to eradicate child pornography, guide efforts for online safety for children, and unite families. These programs also support the work of law enforcement, including training law enforcement on multiple issues around missing, runaway, throwaway, and sexually exploited children.”

Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL) said, “Since 1984, the Center has helped law enforcement with more than 135,800 cases, resulting in recovery of more than 118,700 children…I only regret that this bill did not go through committee so that valuable amendments could have been offered. If this bill had been marked up, I would have taken that chance to insert language from the Audrey Nerenberg Act, H.R. 271, which I introduced. The Audrey Nerenberg Act would expand the Center’s mission to aid in the recovery of missing adults who have been certified with a mental capacity of less than 18 years of age…While I’m disappointed that this amendment could not be offered, I certainly continue to support the bill that’s before us and the fine work of the National Center for Exploited and Missing Children.”

SAFE Act

On the same day, the House passed, 409-2, the Securing Adolescents from Exploitation Online (SAFE) Act of 2007 (H.R. 3791).

Also sponsored by Rep. Lampson, the bill would require “all electronic service communications providers and remote computing service providers” to report violations of child sexual exploitation and pornography laws. Service providers would be required to store information on the identity of a suspected sex offender, the time the pornography was uploaded or discovered, the location of the suspect, and the images themselves. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children would forward this evidence to domestic and foreign law enforcement agencies.

“Currently, Internet service providers are mandated to report child pornography to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children,” Rep. Lampson said. “Under the SAFE Act, all electronic service communications providers and remote computing service providers will have to report child pornography. For knowingly and willingly not filing a report after being made aware of a child pornography image, these providers will be subject to increased fines of $150,000 per image per day for the first offense and up to $300,000 per image per day for any image found thereafter. This bill will also increase the efficiency of the CyberTipline, making it a better investigative tool for law enforcement by mandating that all information submitted by providers is consistent. The process outlined in this bill keeps law enforcement officials in the loop by making information more readily accessible and requires providers to retain key data that law enforcement agencies can use to investigate and prosecute child predators.”

Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) said, “This legislation is a good first step in addressing the problem of child pornography. However, there is much more that needs to be done. In February 2007, Judiciary Committee Ranking Member [Lamar] Smith [(R-TX)] and I introduced H.R. 837, the Internet SAFETY Act of 2007, a comprehensive proposal to provide law enforcement with the tools and resources needed to deal with the problem of child pornography. Unfortunately, the majority has chosen not to consider this vital proposal. I am hopeful that the majority will bring H.R. 837 up for consideration by the Judiciary Committee and then to the House floor. Our children deserve as much protection as we can provide. They are vulnerable victims of the child pornography industry. We need to do more. A first step is good, but we cannot stop here. We must keep moving forward to keep our children safe.”

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