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Namesake laws falling into disfavor

Published: Saturday, June 15 2013 6:44 p.m. MDT

In the last 20 years, laws named after victims rose in prominence, as particular incidents focused fears and resulting "apostrophe" laws were named for them. The practice is falling out of favor, according to USA Today.

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"Dozens of state and federal statutes are named for children who died too soon," reported Rick Hampson for USA Today this week. "Megan's Law and Jessica's Law, the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act, the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act. There's Kendra's Law, Leandra's Law and Lauren's Law, three Jacob's Laws and at least three Laura's Laws."

But passion for new laws and even the survival of the old ones has dimmed, Hampson notes, as legislators and the public have begun to realize that not every atrocity is best handled with a legislative correction.

But Hampson may be speaking a bit soon.

A proposed "Amelia's Law," which would tighten parole policy, is hung up in Tennessee over budget concerns, but its author has high hopes for next year, applauding a unanimous vote in the Senate Judiciay Committee.

"Both [Amelia's mother Amanda] Moore and Wayne Keown were disappointed last week when they learned the bill would not have a chance for a vote this year," reported the Daily Times, "but they were more than glad to hear of the progress made in the Senate this week, especially with the anniversary of Amelia Keown’s birthday coming up on March 27."

“It’s a really big deal for me right now,” Moore said. “It’s still a victory in my eyes. ... We’re one step closer to where we want to be.”

It's a symptom of how thick the landscape of apostrophe laws is that two "Emma's laws" are currently in production — one in South Carolina, the other in Texas.

In South Carolina, Emma's Law is stalled. It would require ignition breath locks for DUI convicts, and is strongly supported by Mothers' Against Drunk Driving.

In Texas, Emma's Law is on better footing, having recently passed the state senate. It would tighten parole review policy for crimes against children, and is named after a 4-year old who was brutally murdered by her mother and her mother's boyfriend.

Whatever their fate, the continuing appeal of namesake laws is understandable, Hampson wrote.

"For grieving parents seeking to redeem their loss, such rejection is agonizing," Hampson noted. " 'I just wanted to do something positive," says Deborah Kiska, who backed Sheena's Law. "People needed to know that my daughter stood on this earth.' "

Eric Schulzke writes on national politics for the Deseret News. He can be contacted at eschulzke@desnews.com.

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