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Texas freshman legislator set a standard on privacy law

June 13, 2013

Darned if the new guy from Bedford didn’t accomplish something of national importance in privacy law during his first term as a state representative.

Republican Rep. Jonathan Stickland, 29, was elected last year in District 92 with strong conservative and Tea Party backing. Todd Smith had vacated the seat in an unsuccessful run for the Senate.

As is the way of life for legislative freshmen, Stickland was relegated by many senior members to “seen but not heard” status. Still, he vowed to compile the most conservative voting record of anyone in the House — and he might have achieved that distinction or something close to it.

But what might turn out to be Stickland’s most important first-term accomplishment is the amendment he successfully attached to House Bill 2268, which has been sent to Gov. Rick Perry.

The amendment set national precedent by requiring law enforcement officers to get a warrant for access to someone’s email or customer data stored by an electronic service provider.

Despite the many differences between Tea Party Republicans like Stickland and the most liberal weenies you might find in Austin, there also tend to be some similarities.

One of them is that whatever government does, it should do in the open. There can be arguments over exactly what government transparency is, but both liberals and Tea Partiers tend to be for it.

Another similar belief is that government’s reach into personal lives should be limited (again, there can be arguments about specifics).

Current law does not always require search warrants for access to email or other electronic messages or data stored by Internet service providers and “cloud” services.

Stickland’s amendment to a bill by Rep. John Frullo, R-Lubbock, changes that by calling for warrants. Law enforcement officers must convince a judge that they are seeking information as part of a legitimate inquiry.

Some lawmakers in Washington, D.C., including Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., want similar changes to federal regulations. Until that happens, HB2268 would only affect the actions of state and local officers.

Perry has until Sunday to sign the bill, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature.

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