Following the 2018 midterm elections, the United States Senate took up consideration of H.R. 5075, the Ashanti Alert Act of 2018. The bill had been approved by the House of Representatives in September. H.R. 5075 requires the Department of Justice to establish a national communications network, to be known as the Ashanti Alert communications network, to assist regional and local search efforts for certain missing adults.
In the Senate, Senators Mark Warner (D-Virginia) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) introduced S. 3714, a companion Senate bill that was similar to the House Ashanti Alert measure. The Senate measure was then amended by the Senate Judiciary Committee, and passed unanimously on the Senate floor. The amended Senate bill was then sent back to the House for approval, where it was adopted by a vote of 386 to 2
. President Trump signed Ashanti Alert into law
on December 31, 2018.
“In the wake of an unspeakable tragedy, Meltony and Brandy Billie did something extraordinary: they channeled grief into a determination that other families would be spared the anguish of losing a loved one like they did Ashanti. Though no one can ever erase their pain, I hope it comforts them now to know that Ashanti’s death will not have been in vain,”
said Senator Mark Warner
“Ashanti’s memory will carry on in the lives that will be saved through this new alert system.”
“This law will save lives. It closes a glaring gap in our present alert system. I’m proud to have worked with Senator Mark Warner on the Ashanti Alert Act and championed its quick passage through Congress. This law will create a real-time alert system for missing adults, providing vital information to first responders and helping save lives,” said Blumenthal. “Ashanti’s family should be commended for sharing her story, and turning their grief and loss into meaningful action. Their strength and advocacy will help prevent other families from going through similar tragedies,”said Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). Sen. Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, teamed up with Sen. Warner on this legislation after hearing from Ashanti’s cousin, Connecticut State Representative Patricia Billie Miller.
A new member of the Virginia House of Delegates plans to introduce legislation to help find missing adults.
The legislation is inspired by the tragic disappearance and death of Ashanti Billie. Shortly after her disappearance in September, Virginia Beach police knew that Ashanti Billie was missing and that her cellphone had been found in a dumpster. But because she was an adult, detectives didn’t request an Amber Alert or immediately reach out to the media, according to Billie’s family. Billie was found deceased 11 days later outside a Charlotte, N.C., church.
“We don’t want this to happen again,” said Delegate-Elect Jay Jones (D-Norfolk), announcing plans to introduce legislation next month to create an “Ashanti Alert” system to cover cases like Billie’s. He argued that there is no easy way for law enforcement to seek the public’s help for missing people between the ages of 18 and 60; police can can issue “Senior Alerts” for missing elderly people.
“We need something in the middle,” Billie’s mother, Brandy, said.
Read more about this story in the Virginian-Pilot.