Until I read Massachusetts Senate Bill 2028, I don’t think I’ve read a more sweeping piece of proposed legislation that tramples on both the US and state Constitutional rights of citizens in our Commonwealth. And for this bill to have been unanimously passed by the MA Senate speaks volumes to the (not so) hidden contempt that they have for the Constitution or us citizens.
The link to the bill on the Mass legis system may be found HERE.
Now, I understand that this is 2009 and we’re almost to the point where we’re flying around in Jetson’s cars. Society is, after all, advancing. But the one thing that cannot change is the relationship of the average citizen to their constitutional rights, regardless of how much time has passed since our adoption (as a country) of this document.
Senate bill 2028, under the guise of an emergency, a pandemic, allows the government to intrude into our lives in ways that are in direct opposition to the constitutional rights of the individual. For example, in Section 2B (b), during a declared health emergency the Mass. Public Health Commissioner may authorize:
- to require the owner or occupier of premises to permit entry into and investigation of the premises;
- to close, direct, and compel the evacuation of, or to decontaminate or cause to be decontaminated any building or facility, and to allow the reopening of the building or facility when the danger has ended;
- to decontaminate or cause to be decontaminated, or to destroy any material;
- to restrict or prohibit assemblages of persons;
- to require a health care facility to provide services or the use of its facility, or to transfer the management and supervision of the health care facility to the department or to a local public health authority;
- to control ingress to and egress from any stricken or threatened public area, and the movement of persons and materials within the area;
- to adopt and enforce measures to provide for the safe disposal of infectious waste and human remains, provided that religious, cultural, family, and individual beliefs of the deceased person shall be followed to the extent possible when disposing of human remains, whenever that may be done without endangering the public health;
- to procure, take immediate possession from any source, store, or distribute any antitoxins, serums, vaccines, immunizing agents, antibiotics, and other pharmaceutical agents or medical supplies located within the commonwealth as may be necessary to respond to the emergency;
- to require instate health care providers to assist in the performance of vaccination, treatment, examination, or testing of any individual as a condition of licensure, authorization, or the ability to continue to function as a health care provider in the commonwealth;
- to waive the commonwealth’s licensing requirements for health care professionals with a valid license from another state in the United States or whose professional training would otherwise qualify them for an appropriate professional license in the commonwealth;
- to allow for the dispensing of controlled substances by 103 appropriate personnel consistent with federal statutes as necessary for the prevention or treatment of illness;
- to authorize the chief medical examiner to appoint and prescribe the duties of such emergency assistant medical examiners as may be required for the proper performance of the duties of the office;
- to collect specimens and perform tests on any animal, living or deceased;
- to exercise authority under sections 95 and 96 of chapter 111;
- to care for any emerging mental health or crisis counseling needs that individuals may exhibit, with the consent of the individuals.
Also found in Section 13 (95) (b):
- to vaccinate or provide precautionary prophylaxis to individuals as protection against communicable disease and to prevent the spread of communicable or possibly communicable disease, provided that any vaccine to be administered must not be such as is reasonably likely to lead to serious harm to the affected individual;
So, now we have a proposed law, written under the aegis of “public safety” that essentially declares martial law on its citizens during a time of health crisis…and it thwarts or abridges many of our constitutional rights and liberties like the right to privacy, the right to freely assemble, and the right to have control of our own bodies. Perhaps the Massachusetts Senate was taking advantage of presidential adviser Rahm Emmanuels’ theory that you should never let a crisis go to waste. So, why not use a pandemic or other health situation to unleash a major governmental power play?
The Constitution is set up as a framework that defines and then assures the protection of the personal rights and liberties enumerated within it. Furthermore, the government is society’s watchdog that our rights are vigorously protected. Senate bill 2028 replaces the precious rights of the individual and substitutes the needs of society at large in their place. This is not only wrong, it is madness. Each individual person is the custodian of their rights and liberties. If each of us allows our rights to be abridged or co-opted by legislators who claim to be looking out for our collective interests, then we can expect to have our individual rights either ignored or trampled by future well-meaning legislation that can be dreamed up by our “protectors.”
Perhaps the members of the legislature need to be vigorously reminded that they represent us, not rule us! Because truth be told, the provisions of 2028 sound more like commands from an autocratic ruler rather than carefully crafted provisions that first and foremost protect the individual rights of the citizens they purport to protect.
Now, having said what I just said, I don’t want to see a pandemic kill thousands or hundreds of thousands of citizens. But I personally would rather take the chance of succumbing to the swine flu or some other pathogen with all of my Constitutional rights intact than surviving with rights provided to me (via 2028) as a cog in a larger machine.
When all is said and done, damn it, we are freeborn Americans with protected rights. These rights are too precious for me to allow them to be superseded FOR ANY REASON. Because once we start to slide down the slippery slope that is embodied by Senate bill 2028, we can expect to see our rights further eroded with future, well-meaning, legislation.
In these matters you can count me out!