‘Feeling good’ about homeland security
April 22, 2003
It takes a certain amount of self-assurance these days to stand up and cast a critical light on legislation that has anything to do with homeland security.
But Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas, has never been shy about speaking his mind, nor too worried about taking on controversial topics. For that matter, he’s not that concerned about being re-elected, because his constituents like his maverick style.
When Neal last week made an impassioned protest against SB38 for what he called “wholesale abuse of our constitutional rights,” he showed a fearlessness that has made him, on many issues, the conscience of the Nevada Legislature.
While we respect Neal for raising the tough issues, we have to disagree that homeland security bills in the Nevada Legislature are posing a great risk to civil rights.
Definitions are a bit loose, but we don’t believe they are so poorly written as to allow, as Neal argued, someone to be arrested for trying to put a lawmaker out of office.
The proposed laws clearly talk about threats of violence. And we believe attempts to prosecute someone frivilously for simply disagreeing with the government would be exposed as readily as frivilous prosecution of any other law.
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Other threats to potential rights of the public — such as access to public records — are contained in bills such as AB441. But the Legislature so far has done a good job of making reasonable accommodations to protect both the people’s right to know while restricting a terrorist’s ability to obtain sensitive information.
For example, the bill doesn’t prohibit people from seeing items like blueprints for public buildings. But it does require them to show an ID, so there is a log of all such requests. It’s an additional hurdle, but a reasonable one.
Neal’s best point may have been when he called some of the homeland security measures “feel-good legislation,” in the sense that every lawmaker can cast their vote and say they’ve done their part for homeland security.
Much of such legislation probably isn’t needed, because it’s redundant of federal law, while lawmakers still have a raft of Nevada problems that still need to be solved.