What Happened to Your Civil Liberties During the 2017 Legislative Session - News from The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island, ACLU of Rhode Island News, RIACLU News

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What Happened to Your Civil Liberties During the 2017 Legislative Session

Posted: September 21, 2017|

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Hundreds of bills and countless hours later, late on September 19th the General Assembly’s Legislative Session for 2017 finally came to a close. While we usually see the end of the session come during the morning hours of June, this year, after an abrupt recess of the House due to budget disagreements between both chambers, the end of session came much later than anticipated.

This year, the ACLU of RI lobbied on over 300 bills, both good and bad, and as usual many -- but not all -- of our efforts paid off as we saw important pro-civil liberties legislation pass and other anti-civil liberties bills die.  Here's a recap:

Some good bills that passed:
1. A bill protecting the First Amendment rights of student journalists
2. Automatic voter registration
3. A bill providing for the modification of child support payments based on a parent’s incarceration
4. A bill amending the Open Meetings Act to increase the required amount of advance public notice of meetings
5. A bill requiring release of the State Police and Attorney General records regarding their investigation of 38 Studios (presently enjoined in court due to an AG lawsuit)
6. A much weakened, but still positive, package of Justice Reinvestment bills.

Some bad bills that passed:
1. A bill giving law enforcement officers access to the state’s drug prescription monitoring database without a warrant
2. Three bills targeting ex-sex offenders: (1) requiring homeless shelters to report daily to police about all sex offenders staying at their facility; (2) barring homeless shelters from housing more than 10% sex offenders at any given time; and (3) requiring schools to notify parents of Level 3 sex offenders living within 1,000 feet of a school bus stop
3. A bill expanding the types of unpaid fines that will lead to non-renewal of a person’s car registration
4. Three more bills (S-1025, H-6059, S-614), adding to a growing list every year, requiring fingerprinting and national criminal record checks for certain volunteers and employees
5. A bill limiting the availability of driver’s licenses for certain immigrants lawfully in the country. (A request that the Governor veto this bill is pending.)

Some good bills that died (the first four of which passed the Senate and died in the House):
1. A bill banning juvenile life without parole
2. A bill further restricting the shackling of pregnant inmates
3. A bill banning gender rating in insurance
4. A bill restricting juvenile interrogations of police
5. A bill banning prison gerrymandering
6. A bill codifying Roe v. Wade into state law

Some bad bills that died:
1. The Attorney General’s “revenge porn” bill
2. A bill authorizing the use of automatic license plate readers to enforce car insurance laws.
3. An Attorney General bill criminalizing “unauthorized access” to a computer
4. Bills restricting panhandling
5. A bill requiring drivers’ ed curricula to include information about a driver’s responsibilities, but not their rights, during a traffic stop.

So, all in all, things could've been better, and they could have been worse - at least legislatively speaking.  To learn more about this year's session as it related to civil liberties, visit the legislative section of our website.

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