LB 261: The Good Guys

Ten senators voted against further intrusions on our freedom and privacy in their votes on the Final Reading of LB 261.  Drop them a note and say “thank you” if one of them is your representative.

Senators: Ashford, Dierks, Fulton, Haar, Hansen, Howard, Louden, Pankonin, Stuthman, White

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Final Reading and Vote on LB 550

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LB 261–Unnecessary and Dangerous

LB 261, introduced by Senator Kent Rogert (16 – Tekamah), will “provide for use of machine-readable information encoded on drivers’ licenses and state identification cards.” Information would be limited to the age and identification number of the individual. All 49 other states allow such information to be machine-read at the point-of-sale. It is a measure intended to reduce the likelihood of check fraud and illegal sale of alcohol, tobacco, and lottery tickets. However, it is unnecessary and could lead to more and more intrusion on the purchasing habits of individuals.

This piece of legislation is similar to many other progressive statutes enacted over the years. In the name of convenience, the legislature enacts such regulations. They slip past the radar of the watchful citizenry, and seem to be helpful, but they add up to an intrusive and inefficient government.

First, how much of a convenience is the machine-reading technology? I estimate that it takes an average of twenty seconds to read a birth date off an ID and input it into the register. By having to input the information by hand, the clerk is required to look directly at the person’s ID. It increases the likelihood of the clerk actually looking at the picture on the ID and comparing it to the customer. In contrast, with the ability to simply swipe the ID the likelihood for the clerk to check the physical identity is greatly reduced and would result in more fraudulent use of other people’s ID’s to purchase age-required items. Furthermore, LB 261 says retailers “may scan” ID’s, so there will undoubtedly be many thousands which choose not to purchase more software to keep such a database. Therefore, the use of machine-reading technology is hardly any more convenient, and could be counter-productive in preventing sale of alcohol, tobacco, and lottery tickets to minors.

Next, the gathered data needs to be scrutinized. What is the purpose of keeping such data? As delineated, the only reason would be to make it easier for the state to audit businesses to ensure compliance with age-limited item sales. As described above, though, the use of such technology does not ensure that such sales are being made only to persons of proper majority age. Therefore, it could be argued that such an audit would do nothing more than add another unnecessary work load to state regulators. Fortunately, LB 261 forbids retailers from using the data, however, another use for the gathering of such data could be discerned. The state would obviously have a database of all driver’s licenses and ID’s. It would be easy enough to download businesses’ “age + license number” records and match them up with state records. By doing so, it would be fairly easy to create a lasting database of all alcohol, tobacco, and lottery purchasing habits of all Nebraskans and visitors to Nebraska. I see no provision in LB 261 that would prevent such data-mining. How would YOU like to be on the state’s alcohol/tobacco/lottery ticket purchaser’s list? Frankly, it is none of Nebraska’s business to track any person’s purchasing habits.

LB 261 is being presented as a means to prevent improper sale of alcohol, tobacco, and lottery tickets to minors. However, it lacks the technical uniformity to prevent such sales. Clerks could still make errors or purposefully avoid the statute to sell age-restricted items to minors. As with gun-control laws and many other police-state statutes, this will be easily bypassed by individuals with criminal intent, the average Nebraskan will end up on an Orwellian list of possible offenders, and the statute will create more of a financial burden on the State of Nebraska. Please call your state senator to demand that LB 261 be DENIED!

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LB 550–Heading Toward a Police State?

Last year, we expressed some concern about LB 550–a bill which seemed to us to cross some lines which we deemed threatening to liberty.  The bill didn’t go anywhere last year, although it did receive a hearing, and was placed on General File (1st Reading) before the end of the session.

This year, it was advanced quickly, being passed from General File, to Select File, and being placed on Final Reading on Wednesday, January 27.

As of this moment, we don’t know when it will come before the Legislature for actual Reading and votes, but we want our readers to know a little bit about it.

The Fiscal Note for the Bill says that it “Does not include any impact on political subdivisions.”

The Introducer of the bill is Sen. Bill Avery (Lincoln), District 28.

The summary of purpose for the bill:

LB 550 extends law enforcement authority the Nebraska National Guard members serving in federal Title 32 United States Code status. It also extends law enforcement authority to National Guard members from other states and
territories that come to the aid of Nebraska. Currently, National Guard members have law enforcement authority while on state active duty orders in a state status.
The bill requires the Governor to specifically grant law enforcement authority and provides the ability to limit it when necessary. Currently this authority is granted automatically upon a call to state active duty.
It’s a little unclear, though, whether this bill marks a significant change in current law, or whether it’s merely clarifying what already exists.  We will continue to research it over the next few days, and hope that our readers will do the same.  Let us know what you think–should we be worried about an imminent police state, or is this merely confirming what already exists?  Leave your comments below.

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A Lot of Bills

We’ve only got a couple of more days of bill introductions, and you can tell that by the sheer numbers that are getting tossed into the bin.  Lots of bills were introduced today.  Two that we’re watching especially closely right now: LR 292, a legislative resolution sponsored by Sen. Tony Fulton; and LB 261 sponsored by Sen. Rogert.

LR 292 is a “sovereignty resolution” which will have little real effect–but which is a nice step in the direction of getting people to talk about states’ rights and state sovereignty.  We generally support this, and encourage our friends and members to let their Senators know that they’d like to see this resolution passed.

LB 261 is potentially dangerous–it provides for machine reading of drivers’ license information (found on the scan bar on the back of the license) by retailers.  While in and of itself it seems harmless enough, since anytime you write a check, or if you are carded buying liquor or tobacco, you will show the clerk your license, one worry is that this becomes an easy way to create a database by businesses that perhaps shouldn’t have that access.

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Welcome Back. 2010 Session

Welcome back to NebraskaLiberty’s Unicam Watch.  We’ve got a group of a dozen concerned citizens reading bills as they’re introduced, and will soon start posting here regularly.

Our freedoms at the national level are being threatened, but early bill readings suggest that we need to pay careful attention to what’s going on in Lincoln.  Legislators who don’t have money to spend, seem to be intent on creating new regulations that will affect all of us, and impose unfunded mandates on other levels of government.  Be sure to check back often!

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More Learning Community Bills in Committee This Week

Two bills relating to the learning community (ok “learning communities” but we all know there’s only one) are being discussed in a Revenue Committee hearing this Thursday.

One is Sen. Scott Price’s LB418, which I have blogged about before here.  I encourage everyone who cares about tax fairness in Douglas and Sarpy counties to attend the hearing and support this bill or at least contct your senator and register your support.

LB521, introduced by Sen. Dave Pankonin of District 2 (Louisville) authorizes the Learning Community to levy another quarter cent of property tax per 100,000 valuation, on top of the levies they are already authorised, for “general fund” purposes. It also changes the current reduction in state aid for school districts in the learning community from 50% to 10%. It appears to me that the net effect of this is that the learning community school districts will get more money from the state at large (although still not as much as before the learning community was thrust upon us) while Douglas and Sarpy property owners will have their property taxes hiked for the learning community’s “general fund” purposes.  There’s no statement of intent posted for this bill so I’m not quite sure what Sen. Pankonin is trying to achieve here.

Hearing details are: Thursday, March 26th at 1:30pm in room 1524.

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