Archive for the ‘Pennsylvania’ Category

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Chris Comisac, Captiolwire
c/o NVCCA

A Senate committee on Wednesday unanimously reported out a bill to block Pennsylvania’s participation in the federal REAL ID program.  This bill could be altered before getting a final Senate vote, based on concerns voiced by lawmakers before the final committee vote.

Senate Bill 354, sponsored by Sen. Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon, would exempt Pennsylvania from having to comply with the provisions of the 2005 federal REAL ID law, which established new mandates on states regarding the distribution of drivers’ licenses.

According to the federal Department of Homeland Security, regulations created pursuant to the REAL ID Act set minimum standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards. The law sets standards for information and security features that must be incorporated into each card; for application information to establish the identity and immigration status of a person before a card can be issued; and for physical security at facilities where driver’s licenses and applicable identification cards are produced.

While the department and the law’s supporters maintain this effort seeks to reduce identity theft and to help fight terrorism, others argue it makes things worse.

Opponents of the federal effort have called the REAL ID provisions an invasion of privacy and a possible method to abridge additional freedoms currently enjoyed by Americans.

Sen. Bob Mensch, R-Montgomery, said during Wednesday’s meeting that two consecutive presidential administrations have failed to appropriately address the nation’s immigration issues, “and yet the federal government turns around and says ‘we want to document those of you who are here legally.’”

“I just don’t like the notion that they want to document us, and control – and perhaps even limit – our ability to move through the country,” added Mensch.

Folmer said the federal government is overstepping its authority.

“We need to say ‘we have 10th amendment rights in this state, you [the federal government] shouldn’t be doing this, you have no business doing this and we’re saying no in PA,’” said Folmer, majority chairman of the committee, referring to U.S. Constitution’s principle of federalism.

That part of the Bill of Rights provides that powers not granted to the federal government nor prohibited to the states by the Constitution are reserved to the states or the people.
Folmer also called the federal act an unfunded mandate on the commonwealth at a time when Pennsylvania already faces a huge deficit.

But it is a federal law, and one, unless it is repealed or invalidated, with which states have to comply, said a few senators.

“I wish the federal government would not have done this, I think it’s wrong,” said Sen. Pat Vance, R-Cumberland, “I wish they wouldn’t [have done it], but they did – that’s the point.”
Vance initially said she couldn’t support Folmer’s bill as long as the REAL ID act is a federal law.

Both Folmer and Mensch said when the federal government does something it shouldn’t, states should object to the federal actions.

“When federal laws are passed that aren’t right, and we just continue to comply to them, when is it going to end?” asked Folmer. “We have a duty, I think, to do this.”

“When the federal government is wrong, I think it is the duty of each state to say to the federal government ‘Hey, you’re wrong, let’s stop doing this foolishness,’” said Folmer.

He said if enough states push back against the federal law, the effort could convince the federal government to rescind it.

Vance and others, noting their objection to the federal law, explained their primary concern is what would happen to Pennsylvanians if the state refuses to comply and federal officials don’t abandon the REAL ID effort.

“If we do pass this [bill] in Pennsylvania, what happens to the [federal] requirement that we would need to have these identification cards to board commercial flights, to go into federal courthouses, etc.?” asked Vance.

Committee staff said it was their belief that other alternative identification options would be allowable under the federal law.

“But if that doesn’t happen, how do we board planes and go into [federal] public buildings?” Vance again asked.

“I want to make sure we’re not penalizing the citizens in the commonwealth, right now, who won’t be able to board a plane or go into a [federal] building” if the federal requirements aren’t waived or invalidated, she said.

“I think it [the Folmer bill] bears further discussion once it comes out of committee because I think there are serious concerns, and I think Sen. Vance has voiced some of those,” said Sen. Edwin “Ted” Erickson, R-Delaware.

Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Luzerne, asked if it would be appropriate to insert language into the bill that would address Vance’s concern.Hearing the senators’ concerns, Folmer assured Vance he would work with her to develop something to address her concerns.

“I understand your concern,” said Folmer. “I would not want to hurt anyone down the road.”
Vance said given Folmer’s commitment to her, she would support reporting the bill from committee.

Before the final vote, the committee unanimously amended the bill in response to a request by the state Department of Transportation.

According to Folmer, the department expressed concerns that without changes, Senate Bill 354 is written so broadly that it would prohibit the department “from complying with any provisions of the Real ID law, including the department’s existing fraud deterrent measures and ongoing procedures to reduce fraud and identity theft.”

Similar legislation was approved by the Senate last session, but the session ended before the bill received a vote in the state house of Representatives. In 2008, the House approved a similar bill, but it didn’t get a vote in the Senate.

If the bill becomes law, Pennsylvania would join [at least]16 other states that have enacted such laws.

BTC – Pennsylvania liberty activist, Jim Compton, is calling for support for Pennsylvania Senate bill 354. The bill, sponsored by Senator Folmer, intends to guard against furthering the adoption of Real ID regulations in the State of Pennsylvania.  Local constituents in favor of the bill should contact members of the Communications and Technology committee requesting an AYE vote for the bill.

SB 354 will be heard Wednesday May11th, 9 AM EDT at  RM 8 E-A, East Wing of the Pennsylvania State Capitol.

Related Content:
DHS Secretary Admits Real ID Fraud

The Pennsylvania spying scandal reveals a deeper problem with homeland security.

by Matt Harwood

“The public attention, contract termination, and Powers’ resignation all make it easy to say case closed: A homeland security bureaucrat overreached and fortunately he was smacked down by the state’s citizens and their elected representatives. But what Pennsylvania’s surveillance scandal shows is that a disturbing federal trend has trickled down to the states.”

MORE HERE

Bill banning forced identity-chip implants clears House

HARRISBURG – Invasion of privacy is an issue that really gets under State Rep. Babette Josephs’ skin.

That’s why the Philadelphia Democrat introduced a bill, passed unanimously last week by the House, that would ban the forced implantation of computer chips in humans.

Conjuring Orwellian images, Josephs worries the identification devices – the size of a grain of rice – could lead to a real-life Big Brother nightmare.

“I’m doing, I think, what the legislature does too little of,” she said. “This is a problem on the horizon, and I want to address it before it becomes a societal disgrace.”

Though the technology hasn’t debuted in Pennsylvania, VeriChip, a company in Florida, received federal Food and Drug Administration clearance in 2004 to market the implanted microchips, which were tested on 200 Alzheimer’s patients.

Injected into the triceps, the chips have unique 16-digit codes and GPS capabilities that allow nursing homes to find wandering patients.

“I think it’s really horrible that we want to chip them like barcoded packages of meat,” said Kim Sultzbaugh, a research specialist who helped Josephs write the bill.

California, North Dakota, and Wisconsin have enacted laws similar to the ban Josephs is proposing.

The technology can also be used for security, as in a widely reported case in Mexico. There, the implants were required for some government employees to enter restricted buildings.

A bar in Scotland even offers to implant patrons with chips that allow them to purchase pints without a credit card, according to news accounts.

Despite the technology’s potential usefulness, Sultzbaugh said, some Christian groups liken the identification devices to the “mark of the beast,” a Satanic mark described in the Book of Revelation and represented by the number 666.

Josephs said electronic ankle bracelets could keep track of someone in a less-invasive manner.

But for some “murderers, killers, and rapists,” ankle bracelets won’t do the trick, said State Rep. Dan Moul (R., Adams). 

Moul amended Josephs’ bill to allow chips to be implanted by court order. The bill also would allow the chips to be implanted in Guantanamo Bay detainees who end up in Pennsylvania.

“Terrorists could take that ankle bracelet off with a saw and strap it to a dog and let them run around,” Moul said. “We need to know if these people are returning to the war to fight against America.”

Josephs called Moul’s changes “inflammatory” and “sensational” and hopes the Senate throws them out when it considers the measure.

PA Senator Mike Folmer on why he’s sponsoring 
Senate Bill 621 or SB 621.

Every federal and state-elected official took an oath to uphold the U.S. and Pennsylvania constitutions. It is imperative those in public office start taking these oaths seriously, be cause each day that goes by, more and more of our rights and freedoms are being lost, and government’s appetite for collecting personal and private data continues to grow.

I believe the most egregious example of government overreaching into personal lives is the federal Real ID Act. Designed to protect Americans in post-9/11 society, Real ID would create a national identification card. Proponents of the act believe Americans should be stripped of essential liberties for the greater safety of the country.

The federal government says this plan will protect Americans from terror ists. I disagree. I believe it is a clear violation of the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, redefining privacy as we know it, and creating a mountain of new bureaucracy and increasing fees and taxes — all without making us any safer.

That is why I have reintroduced legislation (Senate Bill 621) that would exempt Pennsylvania from compliance with this unfunded feder al mandate. Eleven states, including South Carolina, New Hampshire, Maine, Montana and Virginia, have already enacted similar statutes.

If Pennsylvania were to comply with REAL ID, in January 2010, driver’s licenses would become a standardized national identification card with a machine-readable zone containing valuable personal information. PennDOT would then be required to link into a massive na tional database, opening the door to the possibility of major security breaches.

In addition, transportation departments would retain digital scans of identification documents, including birth certificates and Social Security cards, for at least 10 years or seven years for a paper copy.

I understand the threat Pennsylvanians face on our own soil, but under REAL ID, that vulnerability is magnified times 50 and leaves us all exposed.

REAL ID also threatens privacy rights by empowering the Department of Homeland Security to collect biometric data, including fingerprints and eye scans, as well as placing Radio Frequency Identification chips in every American’s driver’s license. A proposal by State Sen. Shirley Kitchen, D-Philadelphia, Senate Bill 623, would prohibit government bodies from capturing or releasing biometric data without an individual’s approval or knowledge and prevent a slippery slope toward rights being stripped away.

Other requirements of REAL ID that take law-abiding citizens down a dangerous path are: what confidential data can be collected from driver’s licenses; where and how long it can be stored; and who is authorized to obtain, share, trade or sell that information.

With one swipe of a license, an establishment can collect your personal data and use it for marketing purposes. State Sen. John Wozniak’s, D-Clearfield, proposed legislation (Senate Bill 622) would restrict information that can be made available from driver’s licenses for marketing or other purposes beyond law enforcement.

If we don’t exempt ourselves from REAL ID by the end of 2009, we are in real danger. This act is a major violation of Americans’ right to privacy and another example of the federal government overstepping its boundaries with the states — all with an anticipated unfunded federal mandate cost of $11 billion to already financially strapped states.

The assault on our right to privacy must end. Together, this package of bills can slow the increased flow of data in our daily lives.