Zack’s Law in talks at House, Senate

The bill once named for missing 19-year-old Aynor man Zachary Malinowski has now been introduced in the South Carolina House and Senate.

The S.C. Missing Law is a bill introduced by Sens. Luke Rankin and Greg Hembree and also was introduced in the House by Rep. Liston Barfield. It’s intended to allow for a conservator to be named for a missing person, military person or mentally ill person who cannot take care of their own responsibilities, such as health and life insurance.

Malinowski, 19, was last seen Aug. 25 in Aynor and he was last spoken to by phone about 12:15 a.m. Aug. 26.

Brian Jordan, Malinowski’s stepfather, drafted what was originally Zach’s Law, designed to set protocol for law enforcement when a missing person’s case is opened.

The proposed law called for limited power of attorney privileges for close family members to help maintain certain things in a missing person’s life, such as insurance policies and settling debts

But after review by Rankin’s office, who is a lawyer by practice, it was decided that a conservatorship would be more fitting than a power of attorney. Jordan has since shifted his focus to try to make sure health and life insurance for missing people remain intact while they’re away.

“Most missing persons are going to need health insurance and life insurance and this also is going to help more than just missing persons,” Jordan said, adding it will help military overseas and those who mentally are not able to continue to make their own decisions.

Jordan said he would also like to see changes in how insurance companies work in South Carolina.

He said he learned firsthand that when his wife’s employer switched insurance companies, Malinowski was no longer covered.

“I want it to be transportable with the family to stay with the plan, like my wife’s situation,” Jordan said.

“Her company moved to a different company and we weren’t able to renew. I’m sure we’re not the only ones who were like that.”

Another key to Jordan’s original proposal was to allow for law enforcement to gain access to social media accounts of people confirmed missing, but that has changed to place that task on the conservator.

“It would allow the conservator to go to the different companies to request information on behalf of the missing and be able to hand it over to law enforcement,” Jordan said.

“I’m not asking for the family member to play detective. I’m just asking them to be able to circumvent privacy issues, so once it’s been established that they are missing that they would be able to get access to certain accounts easier.”

Barfield said he wanted to make sure the bill got some initial attention in case the Senate bill gains traction.

“I just thought I’d put it in and let them start looking at it in case Luke got his going,” Barfield said.

Rankin could not be reached for comment Thursday.