Last week, we highlighted state minimum wage increases in Vermont andNew Jersey. This week, once again, we salute states that refuse tomarch lock-step with the Bush Administration’s radical agenda.
On Monday, Montana became the fifth state to officially condemn theUSA Patriot Act. Joining Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, and Vermont–not tomention more than 375 local governments–Montana’s state legislaturepassed the strongest statewide resolution against the Patriot Actyet, according to the ACLU. Inan overwhelming bipartisan consensus, Montana’s House of Delegatesvoted to approve Senate Joint Resolution 19–which discourages statelaw enforcement agencies from cooperating in investigations thatviolate Montanans’ civil liberties–88 to 12. Earlier this year, theresolution passed in the state Senate 40 to 10.
“I’ve had more mail on this bill than on any other, and it’s 100percent positive,” said House Member Brady Wiseman (D-Bozeman).Republican Rick Maedje (R-Fortine) said the resolution “protects ourstates’ rights and is what true Republicans in every ‘red state’should be doing.”
SJ-19 also recommends that the state destroy all information gatheredunder the Patriot Act that is not directly related to a criminalinvestigation, and calls on librarians to inform citizens that theirlibrary records are unsafe from federal investigations.
Although the resolution does not carry the weight of the law, itsimpact is already being felt in Washington. On Tuesday, AttorneyGeneral Alberto Gonzales, speaking before the Senate JudiciaryCommittee, agreed to minor modifications of the Patriot Act, and saidhe was “open to suggestions” about additional changes, a notabledeparture from John Ashcroft’s hard line stance. And on Wednesday,Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI), Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Larry Craig(R-ID) introduced the Security and Freedom Enhancement (SAFE)act.
As several provisions of the Patriot Act are set to “sunset” in December,lawmakers pushing SAFE hope to restore privacy protections and limitabusive tactics such as roving wiretaps and “sneak and peak” searches.SAFE, which was recommended to Congress in Montana’s SJ-19, has drawnsupport from organizations ranging from the ACLU to Patriots to Restore Checksand Balances, a national network of conservative groups.
Both Red and Blue America agree: Better SAFE than sorry.
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Co-written by Sam Graham-Felsen, a freelance journalist, documentary filmmaker, and blogger (www.boldprint.net) living in Brooklyn.