Bill of Rights Defense Campaign

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February 17, 2006

California Adopts Resolution Critical of PATRIOT Act

Nancy Talanian, Director
Bill of Rights Defense Committee


Sacramento, CA - On Thursday, February 16, the California Senate voted 23-10 in favor of Senate Joint Resolution 10 relative to the USA PATRIOT Act, making California the 404th government entity and the largest of eight states to have done so. The other seven are Alaska, Colorado, Hawai’i, Idaho, Maine, Montana, and Vermont. Beginning in 2002, eleven California counties and 53 cities have passed resolutions. The combined populations of states and communities that have enacted resolutions is now nearly 87 million—roughly one in three U.S. residents. The California Assembly passed the resolution on January 3, 2006.

The Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC) commends State Senator Liz Figueroa, who introduced the resolution last year, and her colleagues in the Senate and Legislature for their principled stand in defense of Californians’ civil liberties. Republicans Tom McClintock and Sam Aanestad were among those who voted for the resolution.

Said BORDC’s director, Nancy Talanian, “The California resolution sets a standard we hope Congress will follow as it considers reauthorizing several controversial sections of the PATRIOT Act and the administration’s approval of warrantless wiretaps. The resolution states that no state resources will be used to collect information based on residents’ activities that are protected by the First Amendment, or to scoop up personal records without a direct connection between the records sought and suspected criminal activity.”

California’s resolution also observes that government security measures “should be carefully designed and employed to enhance public safety without infringing on the civil liberties and rights of innocent persons in the State of California and the nation.”

The BORDC congratulates Hazem Kira of the California Civil Rights Alliance, which spearheaded the California effort, and its 23 member groups such as California’s three ACLU chapters, the Green Party and Libertarian Party of California, peace and justice groups, several interfaith organizations and local Bill of Rights Defense groups throughout California.

The passage of the California resolution has the potential to affect the PATRIOT Act debate well beyond California’s borders, as Congress considers the PATRIOT Act reauthorization.

Congress members with more civil liberties resolutions in their districts tend to be willing to take a strong stand in defense of civil liberties. BORDC data show that the 174 representatives who opposed a PATRIOT Act reauthorization compromise bill on December 14, 2005, were four and a half times as likely to have one or more resolutions passed in their districts as the 251 members who voted in favor. The Senate filibustered over that compromise bill’s inadequate civil liberties safeguards. Talanian explains, “If you go further, and compare the vote of the House of Representatives in October 2001, when only 66 representatives voted against the PATRIOT Act, to December 2005, when 174 representatives voted against the reauthorization, it is clear we’re making progress in turning our government’s attention towards our fundamental liberties. So we expect continued positive results now that the most populous state in the union has come to the defense of the Bill of Rights.”

Media Advisory:

California resolution text:

Bill of Rights Defense Committee: