Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Legislative Update Jan. 26

New bills we are monitoring:

HB0204 – Patriotism in the classroom – AN ACT relating to public schools; requiring a flag to be displayed in each classroom as specified; requiring the pledge of allegiance to be recited as specified; providing for enforcement by a mandamus action; and providing for an effective date.

Although a salute to the flag and oath of allegiance are commonly accepted practices in school assembly exercises, exemptions should be granted to a student whose religious scruples or other principled convictions lead him or her to refuse to participate in such exercises. The Supreme Court has held that the protection of freedom of religion under the First Amendment encompasses such exemption on grounds of religious belief. There should be no distinction in this respect between student objection based on religious conviction and that based on non-religious grounds of conscience. We oppose this bill.

HJ0004 – Repeal of the 17th Amendment – A JOINT RESOLUTION requesting Congress to propose an amendment to the United States Constitution repealing the seventeenth amendment to the United States Constitution.

The 17th Amendment is what provides for the direct election of U.S. Senators. We oppose this resolution.

HJ0008 – Sharia Law – A JOINT RESOLUTION proposing to amend the Wyoming Constitution to require courts in this state to rely on federal and state laws when deciding cases and to forbid courts from considering international law or Sharia law when deciding cases.

This resolution is nothing more than a solution looking for a problem. The 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution already prohibits courts from considering any religious law when deciding cases. It is an unnecessary measure that accomplishes absolutely nothing. We oppose this resolution.

SF123 – Katie’s Law – AN ACT relating to criminal procedure; providing for collection of DNA for a person arrested for a felony; providing conforming amendments; and providing for an effective date.

Collecting and storing DNA from arrestees turns a fundamental tenet of our justice system-innocent until proven guilty - on its head. Arrestees have not yet been convicted of a crime, and may never be convicted. Collecting DNA from a person prior to being convicted will do little to make us safer. The effectiveness of a DNA database to help solve crimes is limited not by the number of profiles of known individuals in the database, but by the number of crime scene profiles. DNA evidence can not be collected from most crime scenes. DNA collection is different from fingerprinting, it is an individual’s entire genetic blueprint, and is not simply an identifier. Because DNA is inherited, information can be inferred about family members as well as the individual whose data is collected. For privacy and due process reasons, we oppose this bill.