Monday, March 4, 2013

2013 Legislative Session Week Five Update

With the legislative session winding down, things are picking up on the Capitol Hill. This change of pace was tangible last week, as bills started to move through the process much more quickly.
In the Senate, S.B. 196, License Plate Reader Amendments, passed out of committee and will be heard on the floor. S.B. 196 is important because it limits the use of automatic license plate readers (ALPR) by private groups, and sets up guidelines for use by law enforcement. The bill was given a favorable recommendation after a diverse collection of groups testified in support of the bill. The broad and diverse collection of groups supporting the measure is a testament to just how important the bill is. While ALPR systems are a legitimate tool that can aid law enforcement efforts, they can also be a serious threat to privacy if left unregulated. Because the system has the ability to scan hundreds if not thousands of license plates per minute, and automatically submit that information to a database, ALPR systems allow law enforcement to track a vehicle’s location over time. The consequences of this are serious, as law abiding citizens should be able to move about freely, without being tracked by the government. This problem is only exacerbated by the fact that ALPR systems can reveal very private information such as visits to a doctor’s office, participation at political events, and even one's religious affiliation. Unfortunately, these concerns are not merely hypothetical. In the most famous case of abuse, the NYPD and U.S. intelligence agencies were caught using ALPR systems to track the movements of individuals attending mosques in New York City. Making matters worse, 60% of law enforcement agencies surveyed reported that they keep ALPR data indefinitely. In such cases, citizens’ locations are being tracked and recorded with virtually no oversight. Thus, S.B. 196 is critical to protecting Utahns’ right to privacy, and ensuring oversight for law enforcement. We will continue to support S.B. 196 as it moves through the process, and will keep you informed as things unfold.

Unfortunately, not everything moving through the legislature is having a positive impact, and H.B. 44, Election Polling, is one such example. H.B. 44 imposes regulations on organizations that conduct polls in an effort to fight “push polls” . Unfortunately, the bill is written in a way that allows push polling to continue through various loopholes, while organizations with legitimate purposes are potentially harmed. The ACLU has concerns with the burden on speech that this the bill will create if signed. H.B. 44 has now passed both chambers and is awaiting Governor Herbert's signature. We will encourage a veto of the bill.

Finally, in the Senate S.B. 225, Immigration Trigger Dates, passed out of committee. The bill would push back the date that the Utah Immigration Accountability and Enforcement Act takes effect. The ACLU of Utah supports the move to push back the start date, as it gives the state more time to look at underlying problems with the law. While we maintain that the underlying Guest Worker program is unconstitutional, it seems that moving the date of implementation is a concession by the legislature of our position.
We will continue to work on these, and other issues over the coming week. Check in again next week for a summary of what will surely be an eventful week.
Check out all of the bills we are actively engaged on or tracking during the 2013 Utah General Legislative Session >>

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