Thursday, June 07, 2012

The Inside Game: On getting seven bills passed in one session

In the lobbying game, any association or organization or legislator that could get seven bills passed in one session would be ecstatic. I've been doing this lobbying thing for five years and have been hanging around the capitol as an activist for 12 years, and I can't think of anyone getting that kind of return in one session.

The supporters of HB 2400, the spying bill that loosens the state Wiretap Act, could get seven provisions that they want right now. HB 2400 revises the act in approximately 13 different ways. The ACLU of Pennsylvania has no position on seven of those changes, and we are not aware of any opposition to those seven revisions.

But that's not enough for the government officials who insist on gathering more power for themselves. They want more. And that's where the resistance begins. They want de facto repeal of Pennsylvania's "two party consent" rule that requires all parties in a private conversation to consent to recording with the following changes:
  • Recording without consent if notice of possible recording has been posted. Somewhere.
  • Recording without consent if the person thinks that maybe, possibly, they'll gather evidence of a past, present, or future crime
  • Allowing the government to use recordings that civilians have made illegally
  • Admitting wiretaps from other states or the federal government, even if that jurisdiction doesn't have the same privacy standards as Pennsylvania, i.e. two party consent versus one party consent
They also want to be able to seize mobile phones and then intercept incoming messages and send outgoing messages from those phones without ever telling a court what they're doing. And they want to be able to gather mobile location data from cell phone companies- both historical and in real time- with a loose "relevant to an investigation" standard.

This is why it is so important for Pennsylvanians to watch their government and why it is so important that the ACLU exists. Our founders understood that power in human hands must be checked. That's why we have three branches of government and why the first ten amendments to the constitution limit the powers of government. 

The supporters of HB 2400 could wave the flag of victory with seven revisions to law and walk away. But they insist on pushing for more. They must be stopped.

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