by James C. Sherlock
There are few things the Left desires more than government access to personal data on every citizen and everything he or she does. Virginia continues down that path.
Government Data Collection & Dissemination Practices Act Chapter 38 of Title 2.2 of the Code of Virginia (§ 2.2-3800 et seq.) reads in part:
B. The General Assembly finds that:
1. An individual’s privacy is directly affected by the extensive collection, maintenance, use and dissemination of personal information;
2. The increasing use of computers and sophisticated information technology has greatly magnified the harm that can occur from these practices;
3. An individual’s opportunities to secure employment, insurance, credit, and his right to due process, and other legal protections are endangered by the misuse of certain of these personal information systems; and
4. In order to preserve the rights guaranteed a citizen in a free society, legislation is necessary to establish procedures to govern information systems containing records on individuals.
Democrats in the General Assembly consider those principles trumped by their desires for control of every aspect of citizens lives from birth until death. Thus they are leading an effort to expand government collection, dissemination and integration of citizens’ personal information.
This column is an effort to inform the public of what is being proposed in the 2021 General Assembly so that citizens can judge whether their privacy is worth more than what the left characterizes as government “efficiency” improvements.
There are at least four instances of such efforts in legislation before the General Assembly this session.
HB 2105 Early childhood education; quality rating and improvement system participation
Introduced by: Del. David Bulova (D-Fairfax) From the SUMMARY AS INTRODUCED.
“The bill reinstates the School Readiness Committee and alters the composition and scope of the work of the School Readiness Committee.
From the bill
The primary goal of the (School Readiness) Committee is to provide recommendations for and track progress on the financing of a comprehensive birth-to-five early childhood care and education system in the Commonwealth that addresses both affordability for families and adequate compensation for educators. As part of this effort, the Committee should consider best practices and innovations in the private and public sector from across the Commonwealth and the country. The Committee should consider different sources of revenue and establish long-term goals and targets for affordable access to quality care and education for all birth-to-five children in the Commonwealth. Based on disparities in school readiness outcomes, the Committee should ensure that all recommendations address societal inequities and address the needs of the Commonwealth’s more vulnerable children, families, and early childhood educators.”
School Readiness Committee. Indeed. Once one gets past the Orwellian implications of state involvement in the education of children from birth to 5 years old, the legislation offers no limits on the collection and integration of personal data on the targeted children and their parents.
It also ensures that the 27-member Committee is nearly entirely composed of members of the party in control of the House (4) and Senate (3), the education bureaucracy (19) “and one parent or guardian of a child who is participating in early childhood care and education in the Commonwealth.”
Good thing it is balanced.
Budget Bill (HB 1800 and SB 1100) – Education Data Sharing components
Introduced by chairpersons of House and Senate Appropriations Committees Del. Luke Torian (D-Woodbridge) and Sen. Janet Howell (D-Reston) includes § 4-9.00 HIGHER EDUCATION RESTRUCTURING, § 4-9.01 ASSESSMENT OF INSTITUTIONAL PERFORMANCE b. Elementary and Secondary Education 2. a):
The Virginia Department of Education and the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia shall share personally identifiable information from education records in order to evaluate and study student preparation for and enrollment and performance at state institutions of higher education in order to improve educational policy and instruction in the Commonwealth. However, such study shall be conducted in such a manner as to not permit the personal identification of students by persons other than representatives of the Department of Education or the State Council for Higher Education for Virginia, and such shared information shall be destroyed when no longer needed for purposes of the study.
So a young person’s Virginia K-12 records will be integrated with his or her performance in Virginia colleges and “studied” in order to improve educational policy and instruction in the Commonwealth.
Exactly how that will be done and how it can improve educational policy and instruction is left to imaginations of the bureaucracies. If Virginia K-12 students go to school out of state, this won’t apply (yet). If Virginia college students went to K-12 out of state, this won’t apply (yet). Under the logic of this bill, there is no reason not to expand it to include every student.
Importantly, executive branch members and their contractors will get to see the data. The General Assembly will not unless authorizing JLARC to do so, without which there will be no legislative oversight and review of policy changes attributed to such data.
HB 1876 Workforce development; expands type of data sharing
Introduced by: Del. Suhas Subramanyam (D-Sterling) with support from co-patron Del. Shelly Simonds (D-Newport News). SUMMARY AS INTRODUCED:
Workforce development; data sharing. Expands the type of workforce development data that state agencies may share with the Virginia Workforce System. The bill removes the requirements that personal information be removed from the data and encrypted before being shared among other state agencies and with the Workforce Development System and instead requires participating agencies to enter into the memorandum of understanding supporting the Virginia Workforce Data Trust.
From the text if the bill:
D. The databases from the following agencies relating to the specific programs identified in this subsection may be shared solely to achieve the purposes specified in subsection A:
1. Virginia Employment Commission: Unemployment Insurance, Job Service, Trade Act, and Veterans Employment Training Programs;
2. Virginia Community College System: Postsecondary Career and Technical Education, Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Adult, Youth and Dislocated Worker Programs;
3. Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services: Vocational Rehabilitation and Senior Community Services Employment Program;
4. Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired: Vocational Rehabilitation;
5. Department of Education: Adult Education and Family Literacy, Special Education, and Career and Technical Education;
6. Department of Labor and Industry: Apprenticeship;
7. Department of Social Services: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Virginia Initiative for Education and Work;
8. Virginia Economic Development Partnership Authority: Virginia Jobs Investment Program;
9. Department of Juvenile Justice: Youth Industries and Institutional Work Programs and Career and Technical Education Programs;
10. Department of Corrections: Career and Technical Education Programs; and
11. The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.
That certainly limits the spread. The new ( and undoubtedly vital) uses for this data in the bill include:
(iii) improve coordination, outcomes, and efficiency across public workforce programs and partner organizations; (iv) enable the development of comprehensive consumer-facing software applications; (v) support requirements for performance-driven contracts; and (vi) support workforce initiatives developed by the General Assembly and the Governor.
Now ask yourself how exactly these new uses for personal information by the government will improve your life. And at what risk and cost to your privacy.
HB 1884 Income tax, state; voluntary inclusion of personal & contact information on appropriate forms.
Introduced by: Del. Mark Sickles (D-Alexandria) SUMMARY AS INTRODUCED:
Facilitated enrollment program. Directs the Department of Taxation to include space on the appropriate individual income tax forms for voluntary inclusion of personal and contact information. Such information may be shared with the Department of Medical Assistance Services, the Department of Social Services, or the Virginia Health Benefit Exchange, as applicable, for use in determining eligibility for certain programs.
Beginning with tax year 2022, the Department of Taxation shall also include a checkoff box for taxpayers to indicate their consent to the sharing of tax information with the Department of Medical Assistance Services and the Department of Social Services. Beginning with tax year 2023, there shall also be included a checkoff box for taxpayers to indicate their consent to the sharing of tax information with the Virginia Health Benefit Exchange. The bill contains provisions allowing disclosure of such information in accordance with the act. The bill also directs the Virginia Health Benefits Exchange to, in consultation with other government agencies and stakeholders, identify systems, policies, and practices to facilitate eligibility determinations and enrollment.
All of that personal data and its dissemination to and among multiple state agencies and their contractors is deemed by Rep. Sickles to be necessary for Virginia to build its own Health Benefit Exchange.
No word on why such an exchange is necessary.
No word on why it will prove so much superior to the existing federal exchange that it is worth putting personal information of Virginia taxpayers in play across the state government and its contractors.
The Left will never stop demanding more and more personal information from citizens for more and more government uses. Those above are just the four instances I discovered in this year’s hopper.
Under the current Virginia Government Data Collection & Dissemination Practices Act, citizens have rights to inspect:
a. All personal information about that data subject except as provided in subdivision 1 of § 2.2- 3705.1, subdivision 1 of § 2.2-3705.4, and subdivision 1 of § 2.2-3705.5.
b. The nature of the sources of the information.
c. The names of recipients, other than those with regular access authority, of personal information about the data subject including the identity of all persons and organizations involved and their relationship to the system when not having regular access authority, except that if the recipient has obtained the information as part of an ongoing criminal investigation such that disclosure of the investigation would jeopardize law-enforcement action, then no disclosure of such access shall be made to the data subject.
But, Catch 22, citizens must first guess which among more than a hundred state agencies, boards and commissions has their data and then request it from that agency.
Of course, the Commonwealth is not liable for loss of personal information to data security breaches. Which almost never happens. Or maybe just occasionally.
Virginia’s General Assembly must muster the wisdom and courage to resist such demands. Under the control of Democrats, it is clear there not only is no will to resist, but instead a desire to actively participate and accelerate a dystopian future.
Voters must decide if that future is what they want.
If they know what is going on, I firmly believe a significant majority will reject it.