State agencies and employees would be prohibited from assisting federal agencies in the unlawful investigation, prosecution, or detention of U.S. citizens … under legislation that has passed both houses of the General Assembly in slightly different versions. State lawmakers have been concerned about striking the right balance when Americans are suspected of national security threats.
Both chambers approved the bill with some variations by wide margins of Republicans and Democrats. Bill sponsor and conservative Delegate Bob Marshall reminded the House that President Obama expressed misgivings about provisions governing the treatment of American citizens in the federal law. Marshall added that the members have sworn to uphold both the state and federal constitutions.
“It is our obligation to read statutes of the federal government that affect our citizens. And the deprivation of liberty, the taking of people off our streets, without specific charges, without counsel, without trial, is a responsibility that we must bear and only we can exercise at this point,” said Marshall.
Delegate Barbara Comstock said the General Assembly should not second-guess how to respond to difficult terrorism threats. “It’s not about whether you might have voted differently if you were in Congress. Certainly, that debate is going to continue to go on. There have been bills and hearings already to possibly modify that bill. But Congress is the right place to do that,” said Comstock.
The bill is now back before the House, which must decide whether or not to accept a Senate amendment.
–Anne Marie Morgan