By Times Staff
BOSTON — Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr of Gloucester was among those honored for his support Wednesday when family members, law enforcement officials, legislators and others gathered at the State House for the 12th annual commemoration of Massachusetts Missing Children's Day — a solemn remembrance sponsored by the Molly Bish Foundation.
The Bish Foundation is named for the Western Massachusetts teenager who disappeared in 2000 and whose remains were found three years later — but whose killer has never been found.
Members of the Bish family participated in the program, and were joined by family members of Caleigh Harrison, the 2 1/2-year-old Gloucester girl who remains missing after the she disappeared April 19 from Long Beach in Rockport while on an outing with her mother, Allison Hammond, and 4-year-old sister, Elizabeth.
The event, moderated by Magi Bish, Molly's mother, featured touching accounts by family members and speeches by elected officials all centering around a common theme of "In Our Hearts Forever."
Tarr was recognized for his work on behalf of missing children with a special award in "Appreciation for Your Many Contributions" by the Molly Bish Foundation.
Tarr has worked on a number of initiatives supported by advocates for missing children, including comprehensive legislation passed last year to combat human trafficking, and pending legislation to reform the state's license plate system.
That legislation, named Molly's Bill in honor of Molly Bish, would simplify general issue license plates in Massachusetts by reducing the number of alphanumeric characters on each plate, and utilizing commonly recognizable symbols to improve recognition and recollection of license plates in times of emergency.
Current six-character plates can yield matches of approximately 1 in 4,300 vehicles when combined with information about a vehicle's color and at least three license plate characters, whereas the EZ-ID system contained in Molly's Bill has the potential to reduce matches to approximately 1 in 123 when combined with information about a vehicle's color, the symbol on the license plate and at least 2 alphanumeric characters.
"We need to keep our efforts to protect children and prevent tragedies in the forefront, and today's ceremony reminds us of why it's important to provide law enforcement officials, families and concerned citizens with every possible tool to promote the safety of our children," said Tarr.
Tarr encouraged residents to express their support for Molly's Bill — S.1798 — by calling legislators as soon as possible.
Information about the bill is available at www.ez-id.org, and legislator contact information is available at www.malegislature.gov/People.