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Calif. Senate Approves RFID Bill

The bill, now headed for the state assembly, would ban the use of RFID in identification documents issued by the state or local governments.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Tags: Privacy
May 17, 2005California's Identity Information Protection Act, a bill introduced into the state senate in February by California Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), has been approved in a vote of 29 to 7. Eight Republicans and 21 Democrats voted for the bill, which is now headed for the state assembly, while all seven senators who voted against it were Republicans. Four Democrats did not vote due to absence.

If passed into law, the act would prohibit California state-, county- or municipality-issued ID cards from containing radio frequency identification (or any contactless integrated circuit). Tollway transponders would be exempt from the law, as would RFID devices used to track inmates and patients in mental institutions and children in hospitals operated by the state or by a county or municipal government. Senator Simitian says further exceptions or changes might be made to the bill as it moves through the assembly, but he is happy about its movement through the state senate.

Sen. Simitian
"I was pleased by the bipartisan support for the bill," says Senator Simitian, who explains that the bill is intended to address the privacy, personal safety and financial security of individuals. He adds that the vote incited a lot of good discussion on the senate floor, showing "a general acknowledgement about the issues to be addressed. While it is clear that RFID is an extraordinary utility, there are places were its use is not appropriate, and one of those places is in government IDs."

After the senate judiciary committee approved the bill in a 6 to 1 vote on Apr. 26 (see Calif. Bill Seeks to Ban Tags in IDs), the bill was headed for the appropriations committee. But Simitian removed a clause that would require California agencies already using RFID, for applications such as access control, to phase out of the technology by 2011. This removed the bill's fiscal implications, thereby eliminating the need for the appropriations committee to review the bill, and it went straight to its third and final senate vote, this time by the full state senate rather than just its judiciary committee.

The state assembly will now select a policy committee, which may or may not be its judiciary committee, to review and vote on the bill. The bill should not require review by the assembly appropriations committee unless it is further revised to include elements with fiscal implications.

If the assembly committee that reviews the bill approves it, and if the entire state assembly approves the bill, it will be sent to the governor for approval. If the governor signs the bill into law it will mark the first legislation adopted in California—or any other state—designed to limit the use of RFID. Bills addressing the use of RFID in the private sector and introduced in California and other states, including Utah and Maryland, have all been voted down.
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