Friday, April 29, 2011

Bad homeland security bill gets much-needed makover; still ugly

Forrest Wilder at the Texas Observer says that SB 9, Sen. Tommy Williams' homeland security bill, looks quite a bit less Big-Brotherish as it left the Texas Senate, which "deleted or moderated the most objectionable, civil liberties-shattering provisions." Wilder thusly summarized the changes:
  • Deleted - Authorization for police officers to install GPS tracking devices on vehicles without a court order;

  • Deleted - Drivers license and insurance checkpoints that critics said would function as de facto immigration checkpoints;

  • Modified - In the original, a peace officer was required to check the immigration status of someone they were arresting. Law enforcement groups expressed concern that such a mandate would take up ungodly amounts of time. Immigrant advocates worried that individual officers wouldn't necessarily have the requisite expertise. Now, the status-check happens at the jail under the federal Secure Communities Initiative, a controversial program that has rapidly transitioned being voluntary to mandatory.

    Sen. Jose Rodriguez, a former El Paso county attorney, voted against SB 9, in part because of Secure Communitites' disturbing record of snatching up legal residents and even citizens. "Nationwide, there have been thousands of cases of U.S. citizens being detained as undocumented immigrants and tens of thousands of immigrants apprehended without a criminal conviction," he said in a statement after the vote. "This is a broken system and not one we should mandate."

  •  Modified - The DPS pilot project for automated license plate readers (background here) remains in the bill, albeit with some constraints. Sen. Kirk Watson, an Austin Democrat, got Williams to accept changes that will require that all data collected from the devices be deleted after one year. Any agreements to share the data beyond DPS would be subject to the Texas Public Information Act, though the data itself would be unavailable to the public.

    "It's a very useful tool for law enforcement," said Williams, "but I'm also senstiive that we don't want Big Brother looking over our shoulder any more than we have to."
Regarding the license plate readers, Wilder mentioned that "Grits has opined that the Watson provisions are 'an improvement... but still far from satisfying gruel we're being forced to swallow.'" See also coverage from the Texas Tribune, though Wilder's story did a better job of placing the compromise bill in context from the breathtakingly sweeping filed version.

Notably, SB 9 pays for its multi-million dollar costs by doubling a fee that the Lege is already diverting from its "dedicated" source. According to the fiscal note, SB 9 would raise almost $90 million per year by requiring "an insurer to pay a fee of $2, rather than $1, multiplied by the total number of motor vehicle years of insurance for policies delivered, issued, or renewed. The bill would authorize fifty percent of each fee to be appropriated only to the Automobile Burglary and Theft Prevention Authority." So this is bad fiscal policy as well as troubling from a civil liberties perspective. I don't see one thing in this bill that's actually, presently needed.


Anonymous said...

Can someone please explain to me what a license plate reader is and what purpose would it serve in law enforcement? It does not sound like a good thing to me.

Anonymous said...

Because of illegal immigration, Hispanics are now the majority in Texas. Some lawmakers are very aware that these new voters will vote for the democrat candidate. No wonder some want to make sure those future voters (who are presently citizens of another country) go undetected. They don’t want anyone to ever check on citizenship status.

American citizens, through their representatives, have set the number of immigrants allowed in from each country. Some lawmakers deny American citizens this sovereignty. Simply put, if foreigners can upturn the laws and the will of the people, then sovereignty has been lost. The open borders advocates anticipate more voters for their big government, big spending aspirations. They close their eyes to what is going on in Mexico and pretend that it can never happen here. Their blogs ooze with contempt for what is as they claim to be advocating for civil justice. They want to upturn the culture and change every aspect of our society while being pleased to see it become, each year, more like the civil society of Mexico. The burden of these changes is bankrupting states – California being an example.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Hey, 11:07, grow some balls and sign your name to your screeds, especially if you're just going to spread misinformation and bile. Most of the increase among Hispanics in Texas is in fact NOT due to illegal immigration but natural population growth due to larger families and legal immigration, including from other states. Race and immigration status are not synonyms.

Cathy, they mainly want them for two things: Stolen cars and outstanding traffic warrants. The latter is the real sleeper issue on this because 10% of Texas drivers have outstanding arrest warrants for tickets.

Anonymous said...

Could they also be for registered sex offenders attempting to attend church.
I am driving my son's car while he is incarcerated. He is there because he had sex with a young lady he was seeing.
I had stopped at a rest area one day while traveling back home from Austin. A trooper trolling the rest area stopped behind me, turned on his lights, asked me to come closer to his car. I did, then he wanted to know my name, where I was going, where I had been and who the car was registered to (he already knew that) It comes back to my son's name, registered sex offender incarcerated. He totally ignored my expired inspection sticker (a month old).
I am thinking, that the gov will probably put these readers on a sex offenders license plate as well. I guess they could put one on any felons license plate.
I don't know how they work.
Cathy again

Anonymous said...


"A trooper trolling the rest area stopped behind me, turned on his lights, asked me to come closer to his car".

Never do that! Law enforcement personnel should approach your vehicle. Let's not kid ourselves we have psychos among the masses that have committed crimes disguised as law enforcement. I find it odd a trooper would request you come closer. Don't do it! Sit tight and remember it is your privilege to have a self defense mechanism at your fingertips. Just be sure you let the officer know you excercise the 2nd amendment.