It doesn’t often happen in the California legislature, so when it does, everyone notices. What happened? Commonsense prevailed in the State Assembly as lawmakers rushed to the session’s adjournment by September 9.
The ill-advised measure to fail was a Senate Joint Resolution 10 by Senator Liz Figueroa (D-Fremont) blasting the USA PATRIOT ACT as a law that, “…pose(s) significant threats to constitutional protections…” while ordering the state of California not to use state resources that could result in “…sharing intelligence information concerning a person or organization…” It failed 38-32 with 41 votes needed for passage.
During the debate, many Democrats took up the now-familiar urban legends about the PATRIOT ACT, railing against American citizens being held without charges for up to 18 months, thousands of people being jailed, and library and business records being indiscriminately searched without warrants or the knowledge of those so targeted.
Republicans countered that since the PATRIOT ACT has been around for four years now, wouldn’t it make sense that any unconstitutional provisions would have already been brought under scrutiny by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and likely overturned by the courts?
The serious debate over a largely symbolic resolution underscores a larger divide in the nation between those who know we are at war and thus need to take all reasonable, prudent, and Constitutional measures possible to win that war and safeguard the public, and those who still persist in thinking the proper response to 9/11 is to apologize to the world for being Americans and go home, hoping the bad guys will pick on someone else.
While the measure might still be revived before the end of session, one of the two Democrats who voted “no”, Assembly Member Lois Wolk (D-Vacaville), gave a very good rationale for her vote. “Interoperability,” she said, would be impaired by the measure’s language, explaining that she was recently briefed by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the L.A. Police Chief Bratton on the vital need for local law enforcement to work closely with federal authorities to prevent further terror attacks.
This point, of course, has been powerfully brought home by four indictments handed down in late August in Los Angeles against the leader of a militant Islamic prison gang and three others, including a Pakistani national, on federal charges of planning to attack National Guard facilities, synagogues, and the Israeli Consulate in L.A. The arrests of the four happened largely due to local law enforcement’s formal counterterrorism coordination with the FBI.
Lest your hopes get too high, a different bill that fails commonsense test did pass and is headed to Governor Schwarzenegger’s rapidly warming veto pen. SB 914 was approved on a 48-30. The proposed new law makes it a crime to sell more than two puppies younger than eight weeks old unless the seller receives written permission from a veterinarian. The bill was originally conceived to combat the already illegal act of smuggling underage and often sickly puppies in from Mexico. As often happens, the bill morphed into a measure that now threatens to arrest the 11-year-old down the street who was simply trying to sell the cute litter of puppies her dog had seven weeks earlier.
During the lively debate Republican members reminded their Democrat colleagues that it was bills such as this one that cause the Legislature to be held in such low esteem by Californians. Democrats countered that just because the police can arrest and charge someone with the newly proposed crime, doesn’t mean they actually would. Yea, right.