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Keeping Watch Over Massachusetts Public Records
Another Month, Another Important Subcommittee Hearing: On Tuesday, March 20th, You Can Listen Online to Testimony about Senate Bill S1534
Remember when we all heard about a subcommittee hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives about closing the SSDI? There were four bills regarding this, three in the House and one in the U.S. Senate.
That Senate bill (S.1534) comes up for a hearing this week. At 10:00 AM Eastern time, on Tuesday, March 20th, the Senate’s subcommittee on Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Growth has a hearing titled, “Tax Fraud by Identity Theft, Part 2: Status, Progress, and Potential Solutions.”
The website for this subcommittee is multipurpose. Before the hearing you can use it to learn who will be testifying and how to submit your own written testimony. During the hearing (10:00 AM Eastern time), you can go to this page to access a streaming video of the hearing itself. The page is:
Senate bill S.1534 is sponsored by Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, who also happens to be the chair of this subcommittee. You can download a pdf of the bill from:
It isn’t easy to figure out what the affect of a bill would be should it be passed and enacted. An earlier blog entry discussed the House bill H.R.3475 (see http://www.massgencouncil.com/index.php?option=com_easyblog&;view=entry&id=6&Itemid=127 ) and determined that the bill lacked any teeth to prevent the fraud it supposedly addressed.
S.1534 is a far different bill. Here are some of the things this bill does:
- It imposes criminal penalties for stealing identities.
- It creates a “PIN” system or personal identifying system to prevent tax fraud.
- It ensures that the I.R.S. uses at least $10 million a year to investigate fraud.
- It mandates that the I.R.S. coordinate the fraud investigations with local police.
- It mandates that the I.R.S. report back to the Senate and House each year on how much fraud has occurred and what they are doing about it.
- It restricts access for a limited time to the Death Master File, a.k.a. in genealogy as the SSDI, to people who are actively investigating fraud.
- It closes down former access via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that was used by genealogists to access the SSDI.
- It mandates that state prison authorities put a stop to tax fraud occurring within their populations.
- It asks for a report from the Secretary of the Treasury about whether barriers to information sharing have contributed to fraud.
Unlike the House bill we discussed earlier, this Senate bill has fraud prevention built in. Clearly as a genealogist who uses the SSDI frequently for research, I care about the two bullet points that I marked in red. I would like to see the SSDI/DMF used more frequently to prevent fraud. I also would like to see its continued use in returning soldier’s remains to their families.
WHAT WE CAN DO
My suggestion to genealogists is that you listen to this hearing. The subcommittee website provides information about how we as individuals can submit written testimony about our assessment of the bill and its parts. If you have the time to read the bill and to listen to the testimony, consider submitting written testimony of your own viewpoint. It’s our government and we have the right and responsibility to ask that it run effectively and that it serve us.
Please come back to add comments to this blog posting. Let us know what you think about the testimony and the bill. Have you submitted testimony?