The General Assembly Final Days: Sine Die is April 29


The General Assembly Final Days Is April 29

By former District 77 State Representative Gail Riecken

If you love the thrill of the political games played behind the scene you would love the last weeks of the General Assembly. Last Thursday had legislators arguing on the Senate floor for the winning position on SB 322.

Their passion eventually brought Senate President Pro Tem David Long to his feet.

SB 322, the take-DNA-at-time-of-booking-bill, has an unusual number of legislators signing on;13 Representatives and 28 Senators signing on as authors and co-authors and sponsors – a strong indication of passage.

But, it was obvious last Thursday opponents to the bill were not giving up.

Here is a digest of the conversation on the Senate floor.

Lt Governor Crouch called up SB 322, DNA felony arrestees.

Senator Houchin presented her bill, SB 322. You could see the determination in her manner while describing the bill.

Senator Young spoke. He passionately opposed the bill stating it violates the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution that prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. A warrant must be obtained by court order for “probable cause”, he said, to protect people’s rights. Senator Young would vote “no”.

Senator Taylor challenged the bill. He said when a person is arrested he is innocent until proven guilty.  In this bill the non-guilty person has his DNA taken at booking, and then has to go one step further to get the DNA expunged form his/her record, that being, hire an attorney [spend money] and go to court. He went on. It would have taken one small change to the bill to automatically expunge the DNA of the non-guilty person.

Senator Taylor also argued collection of DNA at booking is surely not for identification as fingerprints are but for investigation. He said, “Why not do it the right way and get a warrant”. He made one other strong assertion. The [collection/storage of] DNA can be breached and placed in a location that incriminates an innocent person”.  Senator Taylor would vote “no”.

Senator Freeman quoted the court decision in “Maryland vs. King” that he said there is no difference between fingerprints and DNA samples as identification. He would support the bill.

Senator Breaux said the bill is “flawed legislation”. She would vote “no”. Senator Randolph stood to say he agreed and would vote “no”.

Senator Tomes rose to be recognized. He seconded the comments that maybe a police officer has it in for someone and arrests him. That person then must give up his DNA. He said that the people of his district respect the Constitution and would want the legislature to do so also. He would have to vote “no”.

Drama was at its highest when Senator Long interrupted, walking to the podium: “We have 67 conference committees at this point that have to be decided…probably a record.”

Senator Houchin quickly closed with comments.  36 Senators voted “yes” and 13 voted “no”.  Area Senators Bassler, Senator Becker, Senator Tomes and Senator Young voted “no”. In the House, area legislators Rep. Sullivan and Washburne in a previous vote, voted “no” and Rep. McNamara, Bacon and Hatfield voted “yes”.

This diversity of opinions and diversity of legislators is surely enough to offer a spirited debate. SB322, whether or not it becomes law, should be discussed, even if just locally. The warrant and automatic expungement seem obvious compromises to answer real concerns of some legislators. I wouldn’t want to see this legislation pass another year without some well thought out revisions.

FOOTNOTES: This article was written by former District 77 State Representative Gail Riecken in hopes that our readers will get an insight on how State Government works behind the political scene.  We would like to know why members of our locally elected State officials voted for SB322,

Todays “READERS POLL” question is: Do you feel that County Commissioner Cheryl Musgrave should heed GOP Chairman Wayne Parke call for her to resign? 

We urge you to take time and click the section we have reserved for the daily recaps of the activities of our local Law Enforcement professionals. This section is located on the upper right side of our publication.

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