Montana Resolution Bars State Participation in Patriot Act Measures; Legislature Urges Congress to Restore Checks and Balances in Law

April 4, 2005

Fifth Statewide Resolution Contains Strongest Pro-Civil Liberties Language Yet

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Media@dcaclu.org

WASHINGTON - The American Civil Liberties Union today applauded Montana for passing the strongest state-level resolution in the country against the Patriot Act. The bipartisan resolution calls on Congress to bring the controversial anti-terrorism legislation in line with the Constitution, and prohibits state agencies from participating in abusive federal security measures.

Montana is the fifth state legislature to speak out against the Patriot Act and joins more than 375 local governments that have passed similar resolutions defending essential liberties.

"We have had a broad-based and bipartisan expression of concern from so many members of the Montana House and Senate," said Scott Crichton, Executive Director of the ACLU of Montana. "Our legislature has today shown that standing up for core American constitutional values is not a red state or blue state issue: it unites people of all political persuasions. Now it time for our congressional delegation to listen to the voices of their constituents."

Montana legislators said their actions were indeed reflecting the will of their constituents. "I've had more mail on this bill than on any other, and it's 100 percent positive," said House Member Brady Wiseman (D-Bozeman), who served on the committee that sent the resolution to the legislature. "It's clear that Montanans are very concerned about the federal government taking away their liberty."

On the other side of the aisle, it was Republican Rick Maedje (R- Fortine) who carried the resolution in the House. "There is a long conservative tradition in Montana of defending individual liberty," Maedje said. "This resolution protects our states rights and is what true Republicans in every Red State should be doing."

Several of the most extreme provisions of the Patriot Act, which was rushed through Congress just weeks after 9/11, are set to expire or "sunset" at the end of this year. Lawmakers included the sunsets so that they could step back and review the broad new powers. They wanted to make sure the act was effective, and that civil liberties were not unnecessarily compromised by the expansion of law enforcement powers.

The Montana resolution calls on Congress to makes sure the provisions are allowed to sunset. It also urges support for the Security and Freedom Ensured (SAFE) Act, a modest bipartisan measure that would help restore privacy protections and make sure additional Patriot Act provisions, like the controversial "sneak and peek" search provision, come up for review with the sunsets.

The legislature's resolution also calls on the Montana delegation to support the End Racial Profiling Act, a federal bill that would ban racial profiling by law enforcement.

"We commend Montana for taking a national leadership role in helping to restore civil liberties and bring the Patriot Act back in line with the Constitution," said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "Across the country, millions have spoken up in the name of freedom, and now Congress must listen."

Murphy noted that Montana residents voted for Bush in 2004, elected a Democratic State Senate and an evenly divided State House. "Now the legislature has adopted an anti-Patriot Act resolution with overwhelmingly bipartisan support," Murphy said, "further proving that Americans of all political stripes think that the Patriot Act went too far, too fast."

The Montana resolution follows statewide measures in Vermont, Alaska, Hawaii, and Maine and in over 375 local communities, representing over 56 million Americans nationwide. The resolution was approved by the House on a vote of 87 to 12, with the Senate having passed the resolution on a vote of 40 to 10.

The text of the Montana resolution can be read at:
http://data.opi.state.mt.us/bills/2005/billhtml/SJ0019.htm

For more information about the resolutions campaign, please go to:
/resolutions

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