The Michigan legislature may have another opportunity to allow the voters to decide on important privacy rights protections in November.
The constitutional amendment (HJRN) was proposed last year by Rep. Jim Runestad (R-White Lake) . It received 30 bipartisan co-sponsors and was passed in overwhelming fashion by the House this year. It would allow Michigan voters to alter the Michigan Bill of Rights to read as follows:
The person, houses, papers,
andpossessions, 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 house in this state.
While a state constitutional amendment only binds state agencies and not the federal government, the amendment will protect Michigan residents from a practical effect of federal spying.
By prohibiting state agents from “accessing” warrantless electronic data, it makes such data gathered by federal agencies such as the NSA and shared with state and local law enforcement inadmissible in state criminal proceedings. This protection will remain in place for Michiganders even if federal courts ultimately put the seal of approval on warrantless data collection by the NSA and other federal agencies.
This is why Runestad’s HJRN is such a big deal. Unfortunately, the state Senate has been reticent to pick the bill up. The Senate chose not to vote on the bill before summer recess. It was feared that this would kill HJRN, as the bill needs to be passed with enough time to put it on the ballot for November.
However, it looks like the bill will have one final chance to be approved by the Senate and put on the ballot in November. A Gongwer report elaborates on these encouraging developments:
Rep. Jim Runestad on Monday called for the Senate to take action on a joint resolution extending Michigan’s constitutional prohibition against unreasonable government search and seizures to include electronic data and communications, but the Senate is so far unsure on whether it would do so…
If the resolution were to pass before September 8, it would be included on the November statewide ballot. The Senate is due back on September 6 for its usual Tuesday-Thursday legislative schedule but then breaks again for a week, returning September 20-22, then breaking again until mid-October.
This gives us a chance to have our privacy rights protected this year! However, we don’t have much time. That is why it is important to follow this action item and urge for others to do so as well:
– Call and E-mail Senate Floor Leader, Arlan Meekhof. Let him know that it is imperative that he moves HJRN forward to a vote in the Senate. Please spread the word to others about the importance of this resolution, and make sure that Meekhof’s office knows you mean business and will be alerting the community about his behavior on this issue as well!
His phone number is (517) 373-6920
His email is SenAMeekhof@senate.michigan.gov.
Meekhof is not typically known as a champion for liberty, but he can be pressured to do the right thing if enough of us act. Let’s get into action for one final push for privacy rights in 2016. Spread the word, and let’s show Big Brother who is boss!
Michigan Tenth Amendment Center