Senate passes anti-terrorism bill mirroring federal Patriot Act
April 19, 2003
Despite an impassioned protest by Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas, the Senate voted Friday to pass anti-terrorism legislation making Nevada law mirror the requirements and penalties in the federal Patriot Act.
Neal said the bill “is going to be used to violate the constitutional rights of individuals” by allowing officials to arrest and prosecute almost anybody who disagrees with the government.
“If someone comes to this Legislature and says I’m going to put you out of office, that could be interpreted as an act of terrorism under this bill,” he told fellow senators.
He said the definitions in the bill aren’t tight enough to stop abuses and runs counter to basic principles expressed in the U.S. Constitution.
“This is one of those feel-good measures that could go into our statutes and allow wholesale abuse of our constitutional rights,” he said.
And he said since every crime expressed in the legislation is already covered by federal law, it’s completely unnecessary.
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Neal quoted the Declaration of Independence guaranteeing that all men are endowed to the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and that government derives its power from the people.
He pointed out the declaration states that “whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it.”
Neal said the provisions in SB38 would make the signers of that document into terrorists.
But Judiciary Chairman Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, said the legislation wouldn’t permit government to suppress civil disobedience, that it defines terrorism as activities which involve a violent act.
“Not going to a city council meeting and not writing a letter,” he said.
In the final vote, Neal was joined by fellow Democrats Bob Coffin and Maggie Carlton, both of Las Vegas. Terry Care, D-Las Vegas, was absent but the remaining 17 senators all voted for SB38, which goes to the Assembly for review.