SACRAMENTO, Calif. – It may be "three strikes and you're out" when it comes to the judicial system. In the legislative branch, though, it only takes two strikes. Democratic state Sen. Jackie Speier, hoping to avoid a strike out in the California Assembly Banking and Finance Committee this year, resurrected and revised her financial privacy bill, persuaded an opponent to lend his support, and then pitched it to the 12-member panel. The game was over in about half an hour. On a 3-2 vote with five members not voting and two members absent, Speier's bill, SB1, took its second strike – meaning the bill was officially dead – and headed for the legislative graveyard on July 8. The bill needed seven votes to pass. Speier, who saw her bill fail June 17 before the same committee, was undaunted despite it now being the fourth time in three years that financial privacy legislation-which would limit how credit unions, banks and other financial services could share or sell their customers' personal financial information-has died in the Legislature. "SB1 may be dead, but this fight is far from over," Speier vowed. That's because voters may be given the chance to vote on an even tougher financial privacy bill on the March ballot. So far, more than 300,000 of the 375,000 required signatures have been collected to place the issue before voters under the state's initiative process, according to initiative backers. "Certain individuals here just don't get it, but they will when voters pass a ballot initiative and send a clear signal," Speier said. "I believe that consumers and taxpayers, and no one else, have the right to control their own personal financial information-it's really that simple. Voters will make their choice on this soon enough." While the odds were against Speier's bill going into the JULY 8th hearing, she did win one convert when Assemblyman John Dutra, who had previously opposed the bill, became a co-author of the measure. That did little, however, to sway the other pro-business Democrats on the panel. Gov. Gray Davis had earlier thrown his support to the bill, but the unpopular governor, facing a recall campaign, was able to generate little support for the bill. Senate leader John Burton had initially co-authored the bill with Speier. It easily passed the Senate, but quickly bogged down in the Assembly. The bill that Speier put before the committee was a slightly amended version of her previous bill. Since it was originally introduced, the bill has undergone major revisions, but the thrust – limiting the sharing or selling of personal financial information – remained at its heart. "No matter what I've done, it never seems to be enough to satisfy the unquenchable thirst financial institutions have for selling, sharing and trading private consumer information," Speier complained after the committee vote. "Nothing will satisfy the special interests working overtime to kill this bill." The California Credit Union League was among the organizations that supported the bill. But heavy lobbying by the banking, insurance and securities firms – which have spent more than $20 million since 2000 to keep the bill from becoming law – helped spell its demise. "We're very disappointed with its failure," said John Van Etten, a legislative lobbyist with the league. "Probably the big question facing us next is that of the ballot initiative. I think over the next six months we're going to have to deal with the initiative." The league has not yet taken a position on the ballot measure. "We do not have a position on the initiative," Van Etten said. "We are still in the analysis stage. There's a lot of questions about it." Van Etten said the ballot initiative had broad support and predicted it "would be very difficult to defeat." "That said, there's going to be a lot of money thrown at it by the financial services industry," he said, adding that the matter could likely wind up in the courts. "It also could be a catalyst for congressional action," he added. "There's just so many factors. Now that unfortunately SB1 is gone, we're going to have to turn our attention to this initiative." In other action, the Assembly committee approved several measures dealing with privacy or identity theft. One measure requires that a consumer's identity be verified when a "security alert" is placed on that person's consumer credit report. Another measure prevents government agencies, including public universities, from using Social Security numbers on identification cards. The committee also approved a bill that regulates a company's use of data contained in the magnetic stripe on drivers' licenses. It also approved a bill that requires a business that sells a customer's personal information to direct marketers to provide the customer, upon request, a written description what information was given and to whom. Davis, meantime, signed a bill that requires any user of a credit report to take reasonable steps "to verify the accuracy of a name or Social Security number provided on an application if that name or Social Security number does not match, with a reasonable degree of certainty, the address contained in the credit report." -


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