Saturday, May 07, 2005

More Big-Government Conservativism

The RFIDs in vehicle registration stickers are no longer in the bill, but Rep. Larry Phillips HB 2893, which passed out of the Texas House Transportation Committee this week, would create yet another massive government database filled with Texans' personal information -- this time all their auto insurance data.

(Kuff and others have cited earlier language about "special inspection certificates," and there's been some confusion as to whether the RFIDs were still being considered, but I'm pleased to confirm that wording was removed entirely in the committee substitute.)

The legislation was just submitted to House Calendars, and there are a ton of bills ahead of it waiting to be heard on the House floor, with crunch time further tightened by the cancellation of Friday's calendar out of respect for Rep. Joe Moreno's sad and untimely passing. There's a decent chance, then, that the bill won't have time to be heard this session, since it certainly would be controverial and likely require a time-consuming debate.

Before this week's vote in favor of gathering biometric facial recognition data on Texas drivers, I'd have thought the Texas House ready to resist such Big Brother government databases. In the wake of that vote, though, it's hard to tell who will stand up against the increasingly common use of personal and commercial data for police purposes. The grass roots of the Republican Party pretty much opposes such invasive policies, as evidenced by longstanding language re-adopted in the 2004 Texas GOP platform:

The Party directs that legislation be introduced in both the United States Congress and the Texas Legislature to repeal existing statutory requirements to end the ever increasing, incessant, recurring, and calculated gathering, accumulation, and dissemination of fingerprints, Social Security numbers, financial and personal information of law-abiding citizens by business and governments, the use of which are contrary to and destructive of our individual and collective freedom. Such legislation shall provide remedy and redress to any individual denied service for refusing to provide the above-mentioned information.
That doesn't seem to apply, though, to creating new databases of drivers' facial measurements or their personal insurance data. The small-government rhetoric one hears on the campaign trail never seems to translate, does it, into actually less government in people's lives?

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