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Montana Legislature Considering Special Session on Privacy Rights

Photo courtesy of François @ Edito.qc.ca/Flickr

A member of the Montana State House of Representatives is taking steps toward calling a special legislative session on the issue of privacy that could occur before the scheduled 2015 legislative session.

“I have been in touch with the Secretary of State’s office for policies and procedures for a legislator calling a special session,” said HD15 Representative Nicholas Schwaderer. “We haven’t even had a special session in a long time, and those are normally called by the governor. Nobody even remembers the last time legislature called it themselves.”

If called, the special session would specifically deal with the issue of what types of personal data the state of Montana can share with the federal government, and what types of restrictions should be placed on that data. Schwaderer had a long list of things he wanted the session to discuss, but a constitutional amendment would be the centerpiece.

“The big one is a data privacy bill of rights,” Schwaderer said. “We can chip at this piecemeal; each new piece of technology, each new piece of software. We think a data privacy bill of rights and a state constitutional amendment that’s aimed at protecting data privacy of individuals from the state, county, and local governments would be pretty key. It would be a jump on things that we just can’t handle every single session.”

Schwaderer is considering the special session because he thinks the time may be perfect to address the issue, especially after the recent revelations of the types of data collected by the NSA through the PRISM program and others.

“The iron is really hot right at this moment for data privacy issues,” Schwaderer said. “There are a lot of concerns about waiting for 2015, if that is really something that can sit around and wait. As to whether the letters will go out; if my colleges have enough interest, and if it is something that’s obtainable – because I don’t want to do something just for posturing – the letters will probably go out next month and we would try to hammer out a date in the next few months that everyone could work towards.”

In order to start a special legislative session without the governor, Schwaderer believes  he will need to get a simple majority of votes from the Montana House and Senate, which would be sent in via mail.

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