Rep. Jay Edwards (D-70, Portsmouth) has submitted bills in the RI General Assembly that would prohibit unauthorized highway surveillance and create a committee to review and recommend laws for repeal, according to a state house release Friday.
Rep. Edwards bill (2015-H 5051) would prohibit surveillance on any public highway in Rhode Island unless specifically authorized by statute or court order. The bill would also provide for the confidentiality of information collected or stored.
“Rhode Island residents are entitled to their privacy,” Rep. Edwards said. “This measure would not stop our law enforcement officers from tracking down those who engage in criminal activity. It also does nothing to inhibit the state from operating toll booths. What it does is protect our citizens’ private information obtained through global positioning satellites, EZ-Passes and transponders, radio frequency identification devices and automated license plate recognition systems, from a public search. In a world where we have to worry about things like identity theft and hackers, it’s necessary to have these safeguards.”
All information collected through acceptable forms of surveillance under the law would not be subject to the Access to Public Records Act (APRA) or Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) without a court order. Employees of the state would be able to access this information for customer service, statistical, administrative, or legal purposes, as long as it is justified as necessary to performing their duties. Additionally, no information or data would be stored for more than five years unless a court orders otherwise.
Rep. Edwards’ bill (2015-H 5054) would create the Joint Committee of the Repealer, which would effectively compile suggestions for the repeal of statutes, regulations and executive orders received from citizens, businesses and government agencies.
“It’s time we have a committee that sits down, reads through some of these older statutes and makes recommendations to repeal rules that hold no relevance in 2015,” Representative Edwards said. “The joint committee would also target ‘business-unfriendly’ wording and redundant language in our books. We’re supposed to be doing everything we can to encourage economic growth. Well, it’s the little things that count sometimes and I think this is something that just needs to be done. There are a lot of arbitrary statutes and cumbersome regulations that need to go.”
The committee would consist of six members, three from the House and three from the Senate. Following a review of the suggestions, the committee would then make its recommendations to the General Assembly of laws to repeal or to the governor of executive orders to repeal.
Both bills were forwarded to the House Judiciary Committee; based on information on the General Assembly web site, both were heard on Tuesday, Jan 20, and are being held for further study.
Editorial note: Written substantially from a press release.