DFLers make pitch for privacy legislation in 2001

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 28, 2000

Democrats in the Minnesota House will work with state Attorney General Mike Hatch to enact personal privacy legislation.

Thursday, September 28, 2000

Democrats in the Minnesota House will work with state Attorney General Mike Hatch to enact personal privacy legislation.

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The effort begins in the 2000 elections, when every House and Senate seat is up for grabs.

"We were frustrated by the roadblocks the House Republicans put in the way of privacy protection proposals last session," state Rep. Tom Pugh pledged Tuesday. "The people of Minnesota have said they want this – in meetings, in surveys, in calls and letters to their legislators.

"I’ve seldom seen an issue generate so much instant public intersect and public support," the House DFL leader said.

Pugh and the attorney general held a news conference at Austin Municipal Airport with state Rep. Rob Leighton (DFL-Austin).

"We’re not giving up," Pugh said of last year’s failed efforts to pass legislation.

According to Pugh, the new initiative is not watered down to appease Republicans. Its key elements are the same as those proposed before the 2000 Legislature.

`The DFLers’ privacy protection package would prohibit financial institutions from selling their customers’ personal financial information without first obtaining permission, prevent the government from releasing private medical information to insurance companies or HMOs without first getting the patient’s permission and prevent telephone companies from selling a list of the telephone numbers that consumers make or business calls received without their first receiving permission.

Armed with a Wall Street Journal article detailing how lobbyists swarm to stop tough privacy bills – 59 during the 2000 legislative session – and a list of special interest groups representing banks and insurance companies that donated $110,000 to Republican candidates and party organizations – the trio pitched privacy as an issue voters should test legislative candidates’ with this fall.

"It’s a huge issue," Leighton said. "Consumers are outraged that their personal information is being sold without their consent."

The attorney general pointed out how some Republicans are distributing misinformation.

Hatch collected a newsletter authored by state Rep. Tim Wilkin (District 38A) that announced "House Republicans deliver on personal privacy promises."

All four points that Wilkin claimed in his legislative review were new laws pushed by Republicans in the 2000 session were, the attorney general said, already now guaranteed by the law.

"They were already on the books as laws. There’s nothing new here. It’s already guaranteed by the law," Hatch said.

Hatch also said the new DFL privacy initiative is not a campaign ploy.

But try telling Tim Pawlenty that protecting privacy is the only thing on DFLers’ minds.

No sooner had the DFLers’ plane flown away when a Pawlenty news release was received by fax.

Pawlenty, the Minnesota House majority leader, believes the House DFL privacy initiative is "little more than warmed-over proposals from last session that failed because of stonewalling by Senate DFLers.

"There is enormous room for progress on the privacy issues," Pawlenty said in the release. "But DFL legislators refused to work with us on this important issue last session and delayed acting on the matter until the final house of the 2000 session.

"They really didn’t want to accomplish anything on this issue and instead wanted to use it as a political football in the upcoming elections," Pawlenty said. "They were not interested in a real solution."

Pawlenty claims House Republicans unveiled their own privacy bill of rights at the beginning of the 2000 session, but most proposals either were defeated by the DFL in the Senate or were not given hearings in Senate committees.