NOTE: This article was written on behalf of the Michigan Tenth Amendment Center by Kenneth Lloyd.
There is a resolution that is active in the Michigan legislature that would give the voters a chance to amend the state constitution to protect individuals’ electronic data and communications from warrantless intrusion by law enforcement agencies. This amendment was introduced by Republican State Representative Jim Runestad (R-White Lake), as House Joint Resolution N (HJRN).
If this resolution is passed, Michigan voters will be able to change Michigan’s State Constitution. It would change our State’s Constitution’s Article 1, Section 11, in order so that it would read as follows: “The person, houses, papers, and possessions, and electronic data and communications of every person shall be secure from unreasonable searches and seizures. No warrant to search any place or to seize any person or things or to access electronic data or communications shall issue without describing them, nor without probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation. The provisions of this section shall not be construed to bar from evidence in any criminal proceeding any narcotic drug, firearm, bomb, explosive or any other dangerous weapon, seized by a peace officer outside the curtilage of any dwelling in this state”.
The good news is that the Michigan House Criminal Justice Committee approved HJRN by a unanimous 6-0 vote last year. If the amendment passes the House and Senate, it could be approved and added to our state’s Constitution by Michigan voters in the 2016 general election. This is a very possible outcome because a similar amendment was put to voters in Missouri for consideration in 2014 and was passed with an overwhelming 75% of the vote! So what is the hold up in Michigan?
Although HJRN has been passed though the House Criminal Justice Committee of the Michigan House of Representatives, it has to be brought before the entire Michigan House of Representatives, and receive the support of two-thirds of the members, in order to for it to be placed on the ballot for the consideration of Michigan voters in 2016 general election. The problem is, despite the fact that the House Criminal Justice Committee has passed HJRN, House Speaker Kevin Cotter has allowed this measure to stall for over a year, by failing to bring it before the entire body for a vote.
This issue is especially pertinent to Michigan residents because the Sheriff’s Department in Oakland County is using a cell phone tracking device known as Hailstorm. Republican Sheriff Michael Bouchard says that his department uses Hailstorm to find fugitives. The problem is that, without transparency with regard to this technology, it is very easy for this Sheriff’s office to abuse it by using it to spy on the people in violation of the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment. Bouchard’s story sounds very similar to the story the NSA officials used before their spying operation was finally revealed to the public. We cannot rely on the empty words of power-hungry governmental agents. We need protections such as HJRN that will put Bouchard and other bureaucrats on notice that their use of devices like Hailstorm warrantlessly is clearly against the law.
The people of Michigan would be wise to heed the following words from one of America’s greatest founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin: “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. Those Who Sacrifice Liberty For Security Deserve Neither. He who would trade liberty for some temporary security, deserves neither liberty nor security”. By bringing Rep. Runestad’s privacy resolution to the floor of the Michigan House of Representatives for a vote, Republican Speaker Kevin Cotter would be taking a solid step towards moving Michigan back into the direction of the restoration of the Constitution, 4th Amendment and founding principles.
Speaker Cotter must place his oath to honor and defend the Constitution above trying to satisfy the desires of any special interests. Speaker Cotter’s failure to move on HJRN is simply unacceptable when you consider the fact that the federal government’s unconstitutional spying system is getting more and more powerful with each passing day. We must make sure Speaker Kevin Cotter is aware of HJRN and its importance by deluging his office with emails and calls. The contact information for Michigan Republican Speaker Kevin Cotter’s office as follows:
Let Cotter know that it is imperative that he moves HJRN forward to a vote in the House. Please spread the word to others about the importance of this resolution, and make sure that Cotter’s office knows you mean business and will be alerting the community about his behavior on this issue as well.