Tuesday, March 6, 2012

NH Senate Corrects House's Homework

Usual House Suspects Still Need Remedial Tutoring...

The mystifyingly convoluted journey of the seemingly self-evident concept of HB145, "permitting the audio and video recording of a public official while in the course of his or her official duties" -- that your servants are, as NH Constitution Part 1st Article 8 makes crystal clear, "at all times accountable" -- continues. Last we left it, the NH Senate Judiciary Committee was poised -- surprisingly -- to amend it back to something approximating its original form before the House Criminal Justice Committee had finished diluting it almost beyond recognition (certainly beyond sense).

Well, the Senate did a pretty good job with it, indeed. And so here it is, back before the House CJ Committee, 3/6/2012. Let's try, yet again, to make a few things perfectly clear. Even to politicians.

Number one: "non-public meetings" are called that for a reason. A private meeting with a welfare client is not "generally accessible" to the public. That's a straw man.

Number two: there is a distinction in NH law between the aural component and the visual component. There are no current laws against the visual component. These legislative efforts, therefore, are endeavoring only to clarify the right to record audio. Visual images at, say, "a fatal crash scene" aren't prohibited now. And again, crossing a crime scene tape, interfering with an investigation, is not an area "generally accessible" to the public, now is it? Can you be there without a camera now? No. This bill doesn't change that. That there is a straw man and a red herring.

Number three: the issue is already largely resolved judicially, as the 'Glik' decision by the 1st Circuit Court made clear. That decision was subsequently the deciding factor in your humble chronicler's own criminal case against Weare PD in Goffstown District Court. As for the current law being good enough, there are at least 4 civil actions now pending against Weare PD with regard to them "interpreting" current 'wiretapping' law. Which, given the resolution of my criminal case, is going to cost Weare taxpayers. Reportedly, Weare PD's liability insurance premiums already reflect the coming carnage. The current law is an expensive violation of civil rights. The law needs to respect established rights.

Number four: lose (3) "This subparagraph shall not be construed to permit a person to audio or videotape either in a courtroom or any other place within a court facility without prior approval of the presiding justice," which continues to allow the judicial branch to place itself above the rule of law.

At this point, the House (starting with the committee's recommendation) has several options. It can simply concur with the changes the Senate made, and off it goes to the governor; it can reject the changes and drop the matter entirely; it can reject the changes and request a "Committee of Conference" where a subcommittee from the respective committee of each chamber will meet to attempt to hammer out their differences. The latter option appears to be the direction in which the CJ Committee is leaning. And to make the bill even better, to boot. Golly...

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