Privacy legislation faces uphill climb
Among the cluster of lawmakers competing for time, Assemblyman Tim Leslie, R-Tahoe City, pushed Wednesday to take his consumer financial privacy bill to a floor vote by the end of the California Legislature’s midsession this week.
Chances are slim the measure will make the deadline, Leslie admits.
The legislature breaks on bill hearings Friday. It reconvenes in committee meetings the following week.
The Financial Privacy Act, which is co-authored by state Sen. Tom “Rico” Oller, R-Roseville, essentially gives consumers the option of refusing to have their personal information shared between financial institutions and insurance companies.
“The more places our information is stored, recorded and traded around, the more likely it is that people getting involved with identity theft can get the information,” Leslie said of the bill, which was first introduced in 1999.
In a bipartisan tour de force that included unlikely allies, the measure passed the Assembly Banking and Finance Committee last week with a 9-1 vote.
Despite its favored status among committee members, the opposition – which lists a yellow pages of finance and insurance companies – outnumbers supporters by at least 10-fold.
The American Association of Retired Persons, California Peace Officers and California Police Chiefs associations endorse the bill. Opponents include American Express and Bank of America.
The proposal heads to the Assembly Judiciary Committee before making its way into appropriations.
If it lasts that long, Leslie is more optimistic about its passage given the bill’s undaunted support by Assembly Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Carole Migden, D-San Francisco.
Although a co-author, Oller agrees with the intent of the bill but has limited reservations.
“I like the bill. The only concern I have is with the notification of affiliate companies, if it’s left for consumers to decide,” Oller said, referring to companies wishing to transfer information to its subsidiaries.
Oller fears the state mandate may lay an undue burden on those companies trying to service customers in other departments, if consumers opt out of the program without having the chance to decide on other services.
There are about 10 consumer privacy bills floating through the Legislature.
The version that South Lake Tahoe’s two state representatives endorses requires the consumer to take the initiative in declining to give permission to companies choosing to share the consumer data.
If signed into law, a bank may share the information until the consumer “opts out.”
For this reason alone, this measure is perceived as being friendler to the business community than other bills.
“This bill probably has the best chance of passing because it does have a pro-business slant,” said Assemblywoman Elaine Alquist, D-San Jose, another bill sponsor.
When a perpetrator seized personal identifiers like credit card slips and banking slips from Alquist and her husband, the lawmaker’s life was transformed into a one-year nightmare, she said.
“This affects huge numbers of people,” she said.
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