Tag Archives: Georgia State Senate

Electronic Location Tracking: An Opportunity to Limit Warrantless Searches

spying

That pesky Constitution. It really is stirring up some controversy these days and slipping back into legislation across the states.

I’m sure you’ve seen the headlines. We all have. “Cellphone data spying. It’s not just the NSA” and “DC, Maryland and Virginia cops spying on cell phone data” or more recently “Reports: NSA and GCHQ are spying on virtual worlds, gathering data on gamers“. Private entities are speaking out against the measures, too. They’re everywhere. Literally. Every day it seems we wake to another breaking story about privacy infringements and agency tracking tactics with only stagnant blank stares from legislators on the federal level. Frustration ensues but nothing happens.

So I present to you HB699 authored by State Representative John Pezold (R-Columbus). HB699 essentially details “relating to searches with warrants, so as to narrow the circumstances of when location information for electronic devices may be disclosed without a search warrant; to provide for definitions; to provide for exceptions; to provide for a civil penalty and enforcement; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes”. You can read the full text of the bill here, but HB 699 essentially tightens the reins on the out-of control location spying and tracking by law enforcement without a warrant. My favorite part of the bill is the part where it provides punishment parameters for the government entities that violate the statute and allows for suppression of such evidence in court. (I will agree that there is no ‘price’ for our freedoms being compromised but this bill certainly does more to protect our liberties than current practices by law enforcement agencies.)

There is a slight problem, though. As of pre-filing on November 25th, it was a lonely Mr. Pezold and Rep. Scot Turner (R-21) as official signers on the bill.  I find it interesting that a bill like HB41, dealing with water and sewer fees, has more signers than one that strengthens our Constitutional rights and it’s perplexing to me that 1) there aren’t more bills to protect our 4th amendment rights, and 2) that fellow legislators aren’t calling Representative Pezold to help with the initiative. Personally, I want to know where every elected official stands on this, through the House and Senate and up to the Governor. And you should want to know, too. If they don’t support it…primary. It’s time to stop foregoing liberties because “everyone else” is doing it. The justification for “security” that is most often used in these instances is not applicable. A warrant suffices- and they’re not that hard to get, but at least it’s through a process. HB 699 will cease the circumvention of our 4th amendment rights when it comes to location tracking on electronic devices.

The U.S. Supreme Court has already said the use of such devices does constitute a search.  Montana has similar legislation too HB699 and other states have worked to push electronic privacy initiatives, but we’re a long way from where we should be. It’s time for Georgia to step up. Call your legislators. Tell your friends to call their legislators. It matters. It’s not often that we get good bills anymore and HB699 needs support. This bill is a #McWin.

I’m No Accountant, But That’s A Lot of Dollars, Sir.

Baby-Piles-of-Money

So, I started a little controversy on my Facebook page (which usually leads me to post a blog) last night after discovering that Matt Laughridge, who is running for State Senate in district 14 to fill Barry Loudermilk’s vacated seat, spent $73,873 on one consultant, M.C. Collier Productions Inc., after paying two other consultants $10,000.00 and $1,100.00. Now, I’m no accountant, but that’s a lot of money! $84,973 on ‘general consulting’ fees in a shortened special election.

I can’t really appreciate that someone may or may not be purchasing other items (like billboards, mailers, pens with his name on it, coozies, jar openers or customized Laughridge boxers) through the ‘consulting fees’ because when it’s not broken down by expense, that leads many of us to believe Mr. Laughridge is paying for something other than ‘general consulting’. I fail to see why further information is not provided in a district/county/area-what have you that emphasizes ethics and transparency. If not, that’s one hell of a strategy plan and kind of sounds like a slam dunk in the district, no? I guess we’ll see.

I also can’t really appreciate that M.C. Collier Productions is no longer licensed through the Secretary of State to conduct business and hasn’t been since dissolution in 2002. I don’t know about you but when I fork out cash to various organizations, I do a little research to find out who I’m paying and what their background is. Paying that kind of money to a company that was dissolved over 10 years is unacceptable and smells a tad fishy to me.

Regardless, at least it’s mostly his own money.

That is all. Discuss.

Virginia & Arizona Nullify NDAA, Georgia Legislature Nullifies Legitimacy

Last week, the State of Virginia did a tremendous thing: they nullified the NDAA. Arizona followed suit yesterday. The NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) is an unconstitutional act just recently passed by our lovely Congressional representatives. Each year, Congress authorizes the NDAA but this past year is far scarier. The law effectively “empowers the Armed Forces to engage in civilian law enforcement and to selectively suspend due process and habeas corpus, as well asother rights guaranteed by the 5th and 6th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, for terror suspects apprehended on U.S. soil.” You may say, hey! This is a good thing! NO. IT. IS. NOT. It is the first time since 1950 that our country has codified the power of indefinite detention into law. Have you ever thought about how discretionary the word ‘terror suspect’ is? Have you ever thought of what is truly defined as ‘terrorism’ (the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes) and what other kinds of things can be included in that category? And tell me, regardless of WHO IT IS, this is the United States and we have a Constitution for a reason. Offenders on U.S. soil and U.S. citizens should demand those rights. This law can be used by authorities to detain (forever) anyone the government considers a threat to national security and stability – potentially even demonstrators and protesters exercising their First Amendment rights.

Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson both voted in favor of the 2012 NDAA. So did Jack Kingston, Lynn Westmoreland, Tom Price, Rob Woodall, Austin Scott, Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey. The only GA Republican to vote no? Tom Graves. Even 2 Democrats were smart enough to vote ‘No’, but our Republican leadership, this is how they are leading us. –You can read more about why the NDAA is unconstitutional here.–

Virginia and Arizona both established protection for their people, invoking the 10th amendment. But Georgia did not.

But do you know what the Georgia Legislature did do during the 2012 Legislative Session? THEY PASSED 500 BILLS!!! Sure, 300 of them were local and many of them had to do with the redistricting maps, but all of them had to be voted on by EVERYONE and you certainly cannot convince me that every Representative and every Senator knows what is in each and every bill that was passed in those 40 days.

Some of their wonderful accomplishments include:
John Albers’ welfare drug testing bill, which has received harsh criticism for its’ unconstitutionality and lack of good research could actually COST Georgia taxpayers money when it is challenged in court.
HB 247: Requiring fingerprinting and investigation of emergency medical personnel.
HB 253: Allowing to sell or trade surplus vehicles.
HB 398: Fulton County Board of Education -pension and retirement, correct typographical errors (Should we even have to do this in the first place??)
HB 785: Provide Insurance limitations on licensure requirements for certain health care providers (so very important).
SB 183: Education; school health nurse programs; revise provisions
SB 515: City of Americus, provide for a date of expiration of office for terms of councilmembers and the mayor
These may be important to SOME people, but are they more important than our personal freedoms and protections from the NDAA?

Through the Facebook grapevine, I found that a few Georgia Senators who hosted a Town Hall told constituents that there ‘simply wasn’t enough time’ and they didn’t know enough about the NDAA to craft legislation regarding it. Oh, wait. Then why do you represent us? Your lack of knowledge and concern for time could prove quite dangerous. We may not have until the next year. And if the people vote right, you won’t be around for the next Legislative session.

So let’s talk priorities. You (being Senators and Representatives of the State of Georgia) thought it was more important to create more government oversight through drug testing to save a mere $103,000/year, to create licensure requirements for insurance companies, to allow trading of surplus vehicles and to edit school nurse programs but you didn’t think protecting one of our CORE FREEDOMS was important enough? I guess some of you are too busy getting your shoes tied.

I encourage you to call your Senators and Representatives and ask them why they aren’t protecting you and WHAT is more important. If they tell you they didn’t have time, I suggest you get on their opponents campaign team. Contact information can be found at http://www.legis.ga.gov/en-US/default.aspx

Post Post, Tweet Tweet…Dollars Lost

With the explosion of social media over the last 5 years, it seems like you can’t see anything or anyone without a reference to Facebook, MySpace or Twitter. Advertisements for products encourage you to “Like” them on Facebook and celebrities want to be “followed” on Twitter. All of these seem like great forms of networking, but there is one realm that has me questioning its’ benefits and efficiency: politics.

Felipe Calderón, President of Mexico, has a very active Twitter account, and President Obama uses both Twitter and Facebook to post about what he is doing and his upcoming 2012 campaign. U.S. Congressman and Senators alike use both forms to update constituents on legislation, debates, etc. But lets be honest…these representatives aren’t personally blogging, tweeting and posting. Most will even admit to it…they don’t have the time or the interest to personally do it. So why don’t we talk about the representatives on a local level, who don’t have the staff or budget to have someone do it.

The Georgia legislative session just wrapped up last week and I realized that I knew a lot of more than usual in terms of what was going on down at the Capitol this spring, mainly because it was all over my Facebook page. It seemed like every time I checked my page, my News Feed was flooded with minute by minute updates of what was happening RIGHT THEN. Seems like a positive, right? We constantly complain that politics is too secretive and too many decisions are made behind closed doors. But with constant updates, posting of pictures of each other on the Senate and House floors, one has to wonder…what did they actually accomplish down there this session??

I took note of several representatives who posted what day of the session it was and what was on the calendar. It then seemed to be followed up with a picture of the calendar, who was speaking and even a personal photo with someone who appeared that day. Sen John Albers and many representatives have Facebook pages that they update personally and use to keep in touch with the public. I think it would be worth your time to look at them and see if you think any of them were posting too much. (Hint: The answer is yes. I actually sat in a marketing meeting to discuss the use of social networking and one of the referenced legislators was frowned upon because of how excessive he had become.)

I actually saw a Senator complain that the last day of the session had a full calendar. If you have followed my blog at all, you would know that the Georgia Senate allocated TWO DAYS of Senate time (more like, tax payer time) to “honor” professional athletes. Maybe if they hadn’t done that, the calendar would have been a little more free for the final days to discuss important things like immigration (which passed, but in a painfully weak manner) and the budget. And if the calendar is so full, then stop posting every hour, get off Facebook and get to work!

I’m all in favor of Senators and Congressmen posting what was accomplished that day,but don’t you think that could be done at the end of the day? A nice summary of what happened, what bills were debated, etc etc. It is not necessary, however, to post every two hours that you had lunch with someone from your district, your kid visited (with an added photo) and that your wife just got bifocals! Frequent postings serve no purpose and are a WASTE OF TAX-PAYER DOLLARS. It seems to me that legislators have become too enthralled with the fame of being in the public spot light that they’ve forgotten that they are public servants and it isn’t all about the photos or opportunities to meet people they see as celebrities. Legislators get so caught up in “staying in the minds of constituents” that they end up portraying the message that they aren’t really doing anything down there at the Capitol, except adding friends and expanding their Mobile Uploads folder.

And lets face it…if they were really acting as “public servants” as so many of them like to remind us in their monthly newsletters, they wouldn’t have to tell us all of the things they have accomplished because they wouldn’t be looking for praise….They would simply being doing their jobs.