Hearing held on Jessica Heeringa Act
Jul 22, 2015 at 10:57 AM
The bill is sponsored by Rep. Collene Lamonte, D-Montague, and is a result of the disappearance of Jessica Heeringa from a Norton Shores gas station more than a year ago.
The bill would require the owner or operator of a convenience store or gas station to ensure that, between the hours after 11 p.m. and before 5 a.m., at least two employees are on duty at all times; or, if there is only one employee on duty, that there is a security camera system in good working order operating continuously at all times.
"If the gas station had had cameras, and another employee, I believe she never would have been abducted,” Shelly Heeringa, Jessica's mother, told the House Commerce Committee. “Please pass this bill. It won't help my daughter, but it will ensure the safety of anyone else who works in a convenience store or gas station. No one is expendable."
Heeringa added that her daughter should not have had to make a choice between providing for her son and her own safety.
“The owner of this business didn't care what happened to my daughter — to him, she was expendable," she said.
Police and prosecutors also testified in support of the bill.
Detective Sgt. Michael Kasher of the Norton Shores Police Department said video cameras may not have led to the capture of Jessica Heeringa’s abductor by now, "but looking at the video and surveillance, we definitely would have known what happened that night," which could have helped to ease the pain of Jessica's loved ones.
A violation of the proposed law would be a state civil infraction carrying a fine of not more than $200 per infraction.
The bill would create a new law, which would be called the Jessica Heeringa Act, and would take effect Jan. 1, 2015, but only if the Legislature approves it before the end of the year; otherwise, it must be reintroduced in the new session. The bill’s sponsor, Lamonte, was defeated in last week's election.