Tester wins privacy provisions in Homeland Security funding bill

Senator gets department’s attention with license plate, drone limits

(U.S. SENATE) – With the Senate Appropriations Committee today approving a funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security, Senator Jon Tester did not miss an opportunity to strengthen Montanans’ privacy rights.

Tester, a senior member of the committee, included a provision in the bill preventing the department from moving forward with any plan to establish a national license plate database. Tester has called the database a “misguided idea” and criticized the department for failing to discuss the idea with its privacy and civil liberties offices.

Tester also hailed a provision that forces the department to report on its use of unmanned aerial vehicles – also known as drones. Tester said it was important to make sure Homeland Security respected Americans’ privacy as it protects the nation.

“We can find a balance between protecting our national security and our civil liberties – and there’s no better time to get the department’s attention than when it needs to be funded,” Tester said. “I’ll keep working to protect Montanans’ privacy rights and keep the Department of Homeland Security on its toes.”

At the end of today’s meeting to approve the bill, Tester vowed to keep pushing back against REAL ID – a law Tester fought that requires federally standardized driver’s licenses. He called the law “deeply flawed” and highlighted Montanans’ concerns about the validity of their driver’s licenses when they enter government buildings or board an airplane.

Other Tester priorities inserted into today’s funding bill include:

  • Calling on FEMA to more quickly implement his law allowing Indian tribes to apply directly to FEMA for disaster assistance
  • Requiring Customs and Border Protection to conduct a new assessment of staffing along the northern border to improve security
  • Prohibiting Customs and Border Protection from imposing a fee on land border crossings – a proposal first floated by the Obama Administration last year

The bill will be considered by the full Senate later this year.