GOP Bill to Shield Public Officials from Investigations for Crimes in Public Office Passes Senate

Shortly after midnight, the Senate passed a Republican-sponsored bill to change how John Doe investigations are conducted.  The bill would prohibit John Doe proceedings to be used for investigating legislators, the governor, and most other public officials for misconduct in public office, corruption, extortion and most political and campaign-related crimes.

The bill before the Senate provided that only a limited list of crimes could be investigated under a John Doe proceedings rather than allowing all crimes to be considered as current law allows.  Among those crimes not subject to investigation in the Republican bill are misconduct in public office, corruption, bribery, tampering with public record, perjury, theft, and extortion.  The bill also altered privacy protections for witnesses and limited which judges could preside over proceedings.

My Democratic colleagues and I offered a number of amendments which, among others, would have required a public defender for witnesses who could not afford an attorney, allowed for all crimes to be investigated, and provided that the bill take effect upon enactment rather than being retroactive.  Every amendment offered by Senate Democrats was rejected with all Republican Senators present voting against them. 

If enacted into law, this bill will exempt the political class from certain types of investigations that average citizens would still be subject to.  In my view, this is abuse of power and a breach of the public trust by the majority party.