Only two weeks to go

February 28th, 2006

There are now officially only two weeks left in the 2006 “short” legislative session. The House is working to finish consideration of Senate bills, and we have been making steady progress. Masson’s Blog has a summary of some of the bills that passed the House on third reading yesterday.

One of the bills that passed was SB 247, the bill I discussed in my last post that establishes the Indiana Intelligence Fusion Center. On second reading for the bill, the House accepted an amendment I drafted that removed some potentially dangerous language. Essentially, as drafted, the Fusion Center could have begun “collecting individual intelligence” on Indiana citizens.

The Indianapolis Star provided some coverage here:

Rep. Ryan Dvorak, D-South Bend, who successfully amended the bill, said it went too far by allowing the state to collect information that could be shared with private organizations without judicial oversight.

After the amendment passed I was able to sit down with the bill’s sponsors, Senator Tom Wyss (R-Fort Wayne), and Representative Bill Ruppel (R-North Manchester), as well as Eric Dietz, Director of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security. Together we worked out a way to allow the Fusion Center to share information with other law enforcement agencies, accept public input, and allow warnings to be given to threatened private organizations – all without endangering the privacy of law-abiding citizens.

The result was a third reading amendment that reinstated some of the additional language along with clear definitions and safeguards.

Third reading amendments may be offered just before the bill is up for final passage. They are fairly rare, and require a two-thirds majority for passage. Thanks to the cooperation of all the parties involved – the amendment passed unanimously, and the bill went on to pass overwhelmingly.

News coverage of the legislative session often focuses on the stalemates and conflict that inevitably arise. But much of the behind-the-scenes work is accomplished quietly by Members who are genuinely interested in crafting sound public policy. Most of us get along fairly well, and are able to reach compromises for the sake of good government.

Of course, the last two weeks of session are normally the most contentious. Bills reach their final stages and negotiations can escalate to a fever pitch. I am sure the coming days will be both interesting and intense.

Entry Filed under: Crime & Punish, Statehouse

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