In a win for citizens’ ability to advocate on issues they care about, West Virginia legislators recently passed Senate Bill 16, also known as the “Protect Our Right to Unite Act”. With bipartisan support, the bill passed unanimously, 34-0, and was signed into law by Governor Jim Justice.
Senate Bill 16 is intended to prevent the state government from releasing personal information for people who contribute to a wide variety of nonprofit organizations – a principle that has long been upheld by a Supreme Court decision.
Personal privacy is critical for protecting individuals from retribution, whether by government officials or groups like labor unions or Antifa, that can have a chilling effect on free speech and undermine the ability of citizens to hold government accountable.
The bill provides necessary protection for citizens by protecting the security of their personal information from public disclosure by government agencies. A similar bill, Senate Bill 414, passed the Senate but died in the chamber’s Judiciary Committee in 2019.
This legislation reaffirms West Virginians’ fundamental right of freedom of association. Following Mississippi and Arizona, West Virginia is the third state to sign vital citizen privacy legislation into law. Other states would be smart to follow suit and show they value their citizens’ privacy by passing similar legislation.