The 2011 Legislative Session has proven that when Texans get active, we get results!
Successfully implemented fusion center reform in Texas, defeated the legislation allowing mobile tracking devices without a warrant, pushed back against federal REAL ID law, and another win against sobriety checkpoints!
Thank you, EVERYONE who took time to testify at committee hearings, lobby our Texas legislators with phone calls and emails, and spread the word about the fight for freedom here in Texas! None of this success would have been possible without each and everyone of you!
Texans for Accountable Government Prevents Checkpoints in Texas…Again!
In 2011, Texas legislators introduced bills which would have authorized three styles of checkpoints: sobriety (HB 439, HB 531), “southbound” (HB 48, SB 288, SB 294), and driver’s license/insurance (SB 9, SB 1700). The most compelling arguments were those opposing sobriety checkpoints before the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee on April 12th. Thirty-one activists attended the hearing, including Marissa Stewart and Deborah Stevens who submitted written and oral testimony providing statistics and studies which proved that establishing checkpoints does NOT decrease the number of drunken driving fatalities or arrests. TAG activists also presented alternatives, such as Square Patrol, which actually keep drunks off the road without infringing on innocent drivers’ 4th Amendment rights.
After providing testimony during both House and Senate committee hearings, some of which lasted into the early morning hours, TAGsters effectively prevented the passage of these freedom-violating law enforcement practices.
TAG Announces Major Victory in Texas Fusion Center Reform this Session!
Texans for Accountable Government, along with coalition partners Texas Motorcycle Rights Association and the Texas American Civil Liberties Union, were successful in their efforts to pass a comprehensive fusion center reform bill this session.
There’s still much to be done in the area of privacy and domestic surveillance in Texas but this victory represents a major first step for liberty lovers in Texas. Big thanks to Terri Williams of TMRA, Matt Simpson and Rob Love of the ACLU, and everyone else who helped make this win possible!
The Strongest Language in the Bill:
(1) will not seek, collect, or retain information that is based solely on any of the following factors, as applicable to that individual or organization:(A) religious, political, or social views or activities;
(B) participation in a particular organization or event; or
(C) race, ethnicity, citizenship, place of origin, age, disability, gender, or sexual orientation; and
(2) will take steps to ensure that any agency that submits information to the fusion center does not submit information based solely on a factor described by Subdivision (1).
(b) In a criminal investigation, a factor described by Subsection (a)(1) may not alone give rise to reasonable suspicion. However, a factor described by Subsection (a)(1) may be used in connection with a specific description of a suspect in the investigation
Warrantless Mobile Tracking Devices? Not on Our Watch!
Senator William introduced two bills (SB 9, SB 1694) which would have authorized the use of a mobile tracking device without a court order in the course of a criminal investigation. Both Sen. Williams and DPS Director McCraw agreed that because the FBI has the “authority” to violate our rights in such a way, the Texas Department of Public Safety should be able to do the same.
Fortunately, testimony given by TAG activists during the Transportation & Homeland Security Committee meeting on March 30th was compelling enough that: 1) SB 1694 never made it out of committee; 2) the committee introduced a substitute bill for SB 9 which excluded this offensive provision.
REAL ID Implementation: Texans vs. DPS
As it turns out the Texas Department of Public Safety has been implementing REAL ID since February 2010. This year, DPS Director McCraw came to the Texas Legislature asking for $63 MILLION in order to bring the Texas driver’s license system into compliance with all of the first 18 benchmarks of REAL ID. Senate Bill 9 would have allocated the money necessary to:
- Purchase the equipment to collect and maintain an unprecedented amount of personal biometric information to be stored on our Texas DL AND to run innocent DL applicants through state and federal criminal databases
- Build and staff six “mega-centers” around Texas to handle the influx of “business” due to the fact that all Texas drivers would need to come in and have their face and ALL fingerprints scanned to ensure that they were not a fugitive from justice.
- Fund “mobile units,” presumably for DL/Ins. Checkpoints
These changes to the DL system were expected to cost nearly $75 MILLION a year (after the initial $63 MILLION), which would have been funded by an increase in fees. Not only would these changes have brought Texas into compliance with an unconstitutional federal mandate, but Williams also suggested the use dishonest fiscal policy which was deemed unacceptable by Texans.
Because of much opposition, yet another substitute bill was introduced to eliminate the provisions for fee increases. While this was a win, the House committee proposed an even more offensive way to collect money. The House substitute bill added a provision that would have authorized “southbound checkpoints.” They anticipated generating enough “revenue” through asset forfeiture that they would be able to fund the new DL system.
Senate Bill 9 made it out of committee, but fortunately it never made it to the floor for a vote.
The DPS has proven that they are a rogue agency dictating policy in Texas through the unaccountable Public Safety Commission, giving us no choice but to watch them like a hawk. Lucky for TAG, that’s exactly what we’re good at!
Originally posted on September 28th, 2011