Monday, May 16, 2011

Democratic Process hijacked at Legislature.

As I stated in a previous posts, the last week or so at the Legislature the democratic process is compromised for sake of expediency, but sometimes it is done to keep discussion on a subject to a minimum. This happened today with an initiative by Senator Ortman.

The Omnibus Data Practices bill, SF 1143, was heard on the floor of the Senate today.  As the bill goes through process, there are amendments.  Sen Ortman offered an amendment that would have the State participate in the Department of Homeland Security, Secure Communities Program.  The amendment was adopted.  Some givens, the amendment was not introduced as a bill, sometimes a bill is introduced, but not given a hearing, therefore, legislators try to get the bill on a proposal that is on the passage of becoming law.

With the Ortman amendment not being introduced as a bill, people did not know about the possibility of this legislation.  So today in the Senate, opportunity for her amendment.  No public notice and no process for public input on the floor of the Senate.

When I found out that the amendment was adopted I was surprised. I know that there has been controversy on the Secure Communities program nationally. A number of national organizations have raised concerns and criticisms of the program.  For example, the ACLU and American Immigration Council have position papers on the program.  There papers are linked on the organizations names.  Recently, there have been articles reporting criticism of the program in the media.  Even the state of Illinois recently pulled out of the program.

I knew that the Secure Communities program has privacy and civil liberties issues.  With it being on the Senate bill I knew more than likely the issue could have a full hearing when the bill got to a conference committee which may be in a day or so.  This is done many times by legislators where an amendment is done in one body, but not in the other, and it is worked on in the conference committee.  When the process is done this way, organizations and groups are given notice, and also made aware that in conference committee they will have an opportunity to be heard.

But, low and behold at approximately 9:30pm, I saw on tweets that there was going to be a surprise policy amendment on the Crime Conference bill.  I said to myself, what could that be.  I thought maybe the familial DNA, then it appeared on the twitter machine, the Secure Communities amendment.

The amendment was placed on the Crime conference bill without due diligence public notice, no opportunity for interested parties who oppose or critical to testify, and done in a way which the democratic ideals are made a mockery.

There should have been a proper opportunity for people who so wished to testify on this amendment to be heard.

Good legislation is made when both sides can be presented and be heard.

Update------Additional news reports about Secure Communities program.

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