Monday, March 28, 2011

Big Brother on steroids: License-plate readers, checkpoints, and tracking cars w/o a court order, up Wednesday

There are a ton of nasty-sounding bills up in the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee hearing on Wedesday morning at 7:30 a.m. (see their agenda), but I think SB 9 by Sen. Williams has definitely made it to the short list so far among candidates for my own, personal, "Most Despised Bill of the Session. This legislation:
  1. Authorizes drivers license and insurance checkpoints (after the Lege and courts have repeatedly rejected DWI checkpoints, which is what police really want).
  2. Authorizes a two-year statewide pilot program of roadside license plate readers with tracking data gathered by a private contractor.
  3. Requires police officers in the field to check the immigration status of arrestees with ICE instead of leaving the task to county jails after arrest.
  4. Requires county jails to calculate and report every month the cost of the unfunded mandate caused by increased incarceration from #3, above.
  5. Changes the duties of "special" Texas Rangers to include background investigations and monitoring sex offenders as well as two man patrols in "high threat areas" (no word if that's the border or central Houston).
  6. Increases penalties for organized crime but in certain cases removes the requirement of an "overt act" to establish that someone is part of a criminal conspiracy.
I don't think I agree with anything in this bill after the caption: "relating to homeland security." Sen. Williams and others also have bills on the agenda breaking up each of these individual ideas into their own bills, and there are two other bills up from Democrats Lucio and Hinojosa setting the groundwork for southbound checkpoints by DPS aimed at seizing cash they hope will bolster state coffers through asset forfeiture.

Another billl by Chairman Williams, SB 1694,  would allow law enforcement agencies to put a tracking device on your vehicle without a court order!

There is one promising if modest bill up from my own state Sen. Kirk Watson, SB 1572, limiting the information that can be gathered by fusion centers thusly:
A fusion center may not:
(1)  review, collect, or maintain noncriminal information or criminal intelligence data about the political, religious, or social views, associations, military history, or activities of any individual or any group, association, corporation, business, partnership, or other organization unless the information directly relates to criminal conduct or activity and reasonable suspicion exists that the subject of the information is or may be involved in criminal conduct or activity; or

(2)  review, collect, or maintain protected health information, biometric information, or personally identifiable information unless the information directly relates to criminal conduct or activity and reasonable suspicion exists that the subject of the information is or may be involved in criminal conduct or activity.
If they passed that bill I might feel (slightly, marginally) less awful about the idea of putting up license plate readers here there and yon, since the only limitation presently in SB 9 is that the data must only be used "for law enforcement." But really I'm hoping most of the Big Brotherish stuff will get rejected, if only because of the fiscal note (which hasn't been released yet) and the local impact of expanding peace officer duties given limited resources. All these checkpoints, the data collection and analysis, the extra immigration-related enforcement and incarceration, all cost money, if the Lege is honest about it, and seems unwise at a point in time when the state needs to scale back its activities, not find new unfunded mandates and gadgetry to waste the taxpayers' money on.

RELATED: See coverage of SB 9 from the Conroe Courier.


Prison Doc said...

Disappointing. Depressing. Nothing else to say.

Anonymous said...

If you're not doing anything wrong, then you have nothing to worry about. Record my license plate, track my car, or make me go thru a check point; I have no problem with that because I obey the law.

Anonymous said...

2 man Texas Ranger patrol? Hilarious. Whatever happened to one riot, one Ranger? :>)

Anonymous said...

If this bill doesn't pass this session, then it will the next. Or the one after that. The point is it will become law sooner than later because it is required to bring us into the all-out Police State that so many politicians want.

And it's necessary as well so that the general public can get totally fed-up and begin pushing politicians to go the opposite way and leave us alone.

Mark Bennett said...

Regarding Rangers, the bill is be talking about "special Rangers," who are "not connected with a ranger company or uniformed unit of the department." I gather that these are not real "one-riot-one-Ranger" Rangers.

Your 8:10 commenter, who is so eager to have the government track his every move, won't use his name here. Funny.

Mark Bennett said...

"is be" = is. Oy.

Prison Doc said...

Ah Anonymous 8:10...I was once like you, raised in a conservative law-and-order, law enforcement family. Well, I'm still a conservative, but the shingles fell from my eyes when I got to see first hand how law enforcement isn't often honest, how prosecutors seek a quick solution rather than the truth, how property can be stolen wantonly from the accused when there is no evidence of wrongdoing...oh well, perhaps your day will come. And by the way, obeying the law has NOTHING to do with it.

rodsmith said...

loved this one!

"Authorizes drivers license and insurance checkpoints (after the Lege and courts have repeatedly rejected DWI checkpoints, which is what police really want)."

Pity the judges won't grow some balls and say gues what you idiots we keep telling you NO and you refuse to learn. Guess what we're having you ARRESTED via bench warrants and tossed in the nearest JAIL 48 hrs MABYE that will sink it into your empty heads...NO means NO!

Then have anyone govt official with their name on it as a supporter ARRESTED!

Anonymous said...

First off the state does not decide how many "Special Rangers" ride in a car, the rangers are the DPS Rangers. Whoever employs the special rangers make the rules.

Secondly, I can't believe Grits has turned into a conspiracy theorist! Must be the shadow government running Texas and the USA are behind this law. The New World Order has come to take over Texas! Grits are you against Home Land Security? I bet you are one of those gun nuts that has his own personal fire arm in his home for protection. Grits don't you understand the terrorist must be stopped at any cost. Think how much safer we will be with this law in place. There have been instances of the fringe loony Alex Jones linking to your blog on certain issues. It appears you made need re-education Scott. Perhaps a vacation stay at the Hutto facility would give you a fresh viewpoint which would be more pro-big government.

Scott can't you see one world government is the answer to ending wars on our planet? A planet where eugenics and proper breeding will lead to a super race of humans. We are at the door step of altering the genetic makeup of man to create the ultimate human. Imagine a world without useless feeders using resources to no positive outcome. A tightly controlled society run in a corporate model will remove all violence after the useless feeders are purged.

The Constitution is an outdated document. As George W. Bush said, "It is just a god-dammed piece of paper!" when being questioned by his advisors. Scott it is time to move on to one world government and the security of a highly centralized executive branch leading the way.

Scott sit back and drink a beer and chill dude. Watch some dancing with the stars or a ball game. Stop worrying about what the government is doing, it is all for your best interest.

Anonymous said...

Two comments: One, bills going through either the House or Senate Transportation committees will be raiding (taxpayer) money from highway funds. The so-important Voter ID bill pays for low income IDs out of the Texas Mobility Fund, which is a fund voters approved for roads. It's likely to raid $14 million out of the fund, in addition to the $2.3 billion in gas taxes diverted to non-road uses in the budget to be voted on this week in the House.

Secondly, while Watson's bill regarding fusion centers may limit information used, it does not stop the Private gathering of information from which fusion centers gather much of their information.

The Homeless Cowboy said...

Dear 7:17,

That was freaking SCARY.

Charlie O said...

Anonymous 08:10,

Yeah that's what Chaye Calvo, the mayor of Berwyn Hgts, MD said before the local sheriff's dept. kicked down his door and murdered his dogs and stuck guns in kids's faces. Or Andrew and Anna Jakymec in Cook County, IL said before the Cook County drug squad kicked down their door in the middle of the night.

I don't normally makes insults here, but you are an idiot. You sound like an apologist for every fascist regime in the course of history.

Hook Em Horns said...

"If you're not doing anything wrong, then you have nothing to worry about."

Oh really? In my somewhat new and limited legal experience, there is plenty to worry about.

And then, there's this:

"Think how much safer we will be with this law in place."

All this will do is ensure I have more people to defend in coming years. Perhaps it's not such a bad idea after-all. (JUST KIDDING)

Seriously, all of these possibilities cross the line IMHO but we have taken the power away from judges and militarized law enforcement unlike anything ever seen since 9/11 all in the name of being safe or, uhm, tough on crime! Right, Texas?

austex1151 said...

I'm still amazed that these so-called conservatives, who piously claim to want small govt that does not intrude into our lives, are always the ones proposing those intrusions. They want to police our bedrooms, tell us who can get certain medical procedures, decree whose love is good enough to allow marriage, like warrantless wiretaps and wars of choice, and on and on. Yet the sheeple of this country, having been fed a diet of fear for years, just roll over and pretend it all makes us "safer". Do we any longer deserve a republican form of govt or should we just chuck it now and go straight to police state?

David RD said...

Can we say GESTAPO state??? I just remembered, recently a prominent republican female state legislator commenting on the local evening news; she was trashing the new health care law and basically stating how 'us great legislators (repubs of course) are the ONLY ones standing up against the Feds that are continually taking away the rights of Texas' We must take a stand for our rights'...uuggghhh??? WTF?? The Republican Party The TEa Party, says having access to healthcare is taking away our rights?? The RIGHTS OF TEXANS? YET, where is the "rallying cry" against these "IDIOT" bills and the "IDIOTS" that crafted them?? If these Repubes and Tea Fartiers are so concerned with OUR RIGHTS than why aren't they all over the news against these bill? I SO LOVE MY STATE - but, we sure do have some guys on some bad CRACK up there - at the end of Congress Ave!! You guys and gals have been spending to much time to close to nuclear reactors or something..fried your brains to bacon. I'm SO embarrassed that the citizens of this AWESOME and BEAUTIFUL state have elected these "dip-poops"!! Hey, is there a bill up there to monitor the toilet paper we wipe our butts with also?? Let's just install cameras in eveyone's living and bedroom to make SURE we all follow the law?? WTF is next in these idiots minds? Why not just create a Martial Law State too while you're at it...guess that would make em happy.

Oh again, ANONYMOUS 03/28/2911 @ 08:10:00pm..YOU ARE AN IDIOT!! If you're not worried about being tracked everywhere you go than why not change your name from Anonymous to the real thing? Why are you so DAMNED AFRAID TO REVEAL YOUR REAL NAME next to your DUMB-ASS comments?? I can bet that if you were tracked and recorded by one of these new pieces of equipment all they'd see on the film WAS YOUR HEAD UP YOUR ASS and YOUR FINGERS IN YOUR EARS! It's such a shame that Texas has an overabundance of idiots JUST LIKE YOU!! You dips repeatedly re-elect these idiots making these bills!! Ya know the ones that RAN THE TRAIN OFF THE TRACK! The ones THAT KEEP RUNNING THE TRAIN OFF THE TRACK! It's a damned SHAME!!

SANE and INTELLIGENT TEXANS need to TAKE OUR STATE BACK from this embarrassing and clueless idiots!!