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The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • JASON SMITH: The Federal Government Continues to Encroach on our Constitutional Rights

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  • While the federal government may have no hesitation when it comes to trampling on our privacy rights, here in Missouri we take serious issue with these unwarranted intrusions and actively work to protect our citizens against invasions of their privacy.
     
    It’s sad to think the federal government is so out of touch that it is now reaching its hand into areas of our lives where it clearly does not belong. From the efforts of the EPA to spy on farmers in Nebraska and Iowa to the stated goal of the White House to create a federal gun owner database, we have seen too many attempts to violate the rights given to us by the founding fathers. I’m proud to say our state government has been, and will continue to be, a shield for Missouri citizens that will turn back these glaring overreaches of federal authority.
     
    This week your state legislature took a stand against the potential for intrusions into your privacy created by the use of both manned and unmanned surveillance aircraft. You may remember the news stories from last year when it appeared the Environmental Protection Agency was using unmanned drones to spy on cattle farmers in Iowa and Nebraska. As it turned out, the EPA had actually used manned surveillance aircraft to spy on farmers. It makes no difference if the surveillance aircraft is manned or unmanned. What does matter is that the government was clearly violating the privacy rights of these cattle farmers, and the potential exists for it to happen here in Missouri as well.
     
    That is why we passed legislation this week that says that the use of manned or unmanned aircraft to gather evidence or other information related to criminal conduct or rules violations will be prohibited in Missouri unless it is authorized by a warrant or the property owner has given his or her consent. The bottom line is that we will not allow a government agency, members of the press, or any citizen to violate our rights to privacy through the use of aerial surveillance technology. In the cases where such surveillance is necessary to prevent imminent danger, law enforcement would have the authority to use aerial surveillance. However, in all other cases, the use of this technology would require the same sort of warrant that authorities need to search private property. It’s an important change that is necessary if we are going to keep the federal government’s nose out of our business and out of our backyards.
     
    This week we also had an opportunity to hear from Governor Nixon as he addressed the House Republican Caucus. While the governor is supposed to work closely with the legislature to advance his policy goals, it is a rare occurrence to actually get to meet with the top elected official in the state. While much of his time was wasted on disastrous Obamacare policies that conservative leaders in the House will not support, he also gave an update on the Department of Revenue scandal that has outraged so many Missouri citizens.
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    As everyone knows by now, the department has a new policy in place that requires license offices to scan and keep the personal documents of Missouri citizens – something that many people are justifiably concerned about considering the information could be used to help the White House compile a database of gun owners. According to the governor, the state “is not collecting a bunch of unuseful data to send to some sort of magical database someplace to mess with people.” While it would be nice to take him at his word, we simply can’t take the chance that the state department of revenue is actually acting in good faith.
     
    I have mentioned in past reports the bills we have filed in the House to address this situation. HB 787, which would prevent the department from scanning and keeping documents and require that all existing scanned documents be destroyed, has made its way through the committee process and will be discussed on the House floor in the coming weeks. In addition, we used the budget process to cut approximately $157,000 from the department’s budget. The amount represents the funds necessary to scan source documents and retain electronic copies in a database. By stripping the funding, we make it clear that we will not allow the department to continue this policy.
     
    In the coming weeks I will keep you updated on both of these important issues. Rest assured that your state legislature will continue to stand in defense of your rights and freedoms. One way or another, we will not allow the Missouri way of life to be trampled on by the out-of-touch bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. who continue to make head-scratching decisions.
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