I’ve gone on the record saying that I think Mike Lee is a poser, someone who was at the right place at the right time saying the right things to get elected to the US Senate to replace “Bailout Bob” Bennett. I’ve doubted his sincerity from the moment the candidate nobody had heard of started a series of “lectures on the constitution” ahead of his official announcement. Just yesterday, he announced via Twitter and Facebook that he plans to take on Google in anti-trust hearings. The reasoning behind this shows a dangerous lack of understanding about both free markets and technology.
Hearing the absolute uproar over the proposed changes to GRAMA in HB477, the Legislature decided to recall the bill. Unfortunately, the only thing changed was the implementation date to July 1, 2011 with a promise to rework it in a special session before the implementation deadline. This may sound like some kind of victory, but it’s really a piece of masterful work to create leverage.
See, anyone wanting to totally kill HB477 is pretty much SOL. If the Legislature decides to not pass any replacement legislation in a special session, the bill stands. That’s leverage against any changes they don’t like including killing the bill entirely. With that kind of threat dangling over their heads, why wouldn’t opponents agree to many more compromises than before to avoid that outcome? They simply wouldn’t.
I don’t like it at all. That kind of maneuvering is terrible policy-making and a far inferior solution to pulling back and working with the public to come up with something better. So what if media bosses are trying to game the process to eliminate the concept of off-the-record communication? Now that the public is focused on the process like a laser, could they really get away with any kind of shenanigans? I’m betting not.
Legislators, please show a bit more faith in the process, no matter how flawed it can sometimes be. I think you owe us that much.
One of the proposals before the Legislature this year is to increase the gas tax. That’s one of those sure-fire ways to provoke a strong reaction since we’re all pretty sensitive about the cost of driving. That said, I don’t think it’s really an increase. And at the risk of putting any kind of future electability in complete peril, I don’t have a problem with it at all.
If the Utah Legislature was looking for a way to unite people across the political spectrum, HB477 was a great way to do it. Unfortunately for them, it united everyone against the Legislature in a rather loud cacophony, present company included. The bill went from introduced to passed by both houses in just three days with the stipulation that it take effect as soon as it’s signed instead of after the normal sixty days. This alone prompted a strong negative reaction, never mind what the bill actually does: classifying many types of communication as “conversations” rather than “records” and thus not subject to the state’s GRAMA laws, Utah’s version of the Freedom of Information Act. This really doesn’t sound like a whole lot of good.
On at least a monthly basis, there is a new story of someone legally taking photographs or video who gets harassed by a law enforcement officer without any cause. In some cases, it’s someone innocently taking photographs of a public landmark. In others, it’s a citizen recording a police action of a questionable nature such as this beating of a suspect by a police officer in St. Louis. In all of these cases, the right to freely photograph or record in public should be a given and is often protected by law. Unfortunately, police officers looking to cover up bad behavior often work with district attorneys zealous for convictions to bury people under obscure wiretapping statutes, all for having the audacity to want their own record of events.
A state senator in Connecticut has decided that this needs to stop and has filed an appropriate bill. It not only seeks to recognize the right of people to lawfully record a police action without interfering, but also establish clear civil liability against any officer who would dare to violate said right. As Radley Balko points out, this is kind of a big deal. Officers can (and regularly do) intimidate, harass, threaten, and arrest anyone who refuses to comply with the unlawful order to stop recording because there is no consequence for it. Establishing liability will likely be a suitable deterrent to these kinds of bullying.
I, however, don’t think this goes far enough. (more…)