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September 02, 2005

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Final Update for 2005:

As I reported above, Califoria Sentate Bill 768 was gutted and it's language replaced with the contents of SB 682. Although it is likely that this maneuver was permitted in order to allow the bill's author, State Senator Simitian, to save face, the bill remained in the Assembly Active File, which meant that it could still be voted upon any time before the end of the 2005 legislative session.

Well, it didn't happen. On September 8th the bill was placed in the Inactive File and then both houses of the California Legislature adjourned for the year.

This means that both SB 768 and its identical counterpart SB 682 are most likely gone for good. They could possibly come up for further action sometime after January 1, 2006. However,this further means that if either bill actually gets out of the Assembly and then out of the Senate (they have to return to the Senate for a further vote because they were amended in the Assembly) and then aren't vetoed by the Governor,the bills won't become a law until January 2007.

This is plenty of time for California libraries to responsibly utilize RFID technology to improve services. The bills, if somehow enacted, grandfather in all uses that exist prior to the bill becoming law.

This is also plenty of time for everyone concerned with the proliferation of RFID technology to work out a rational, meaningful plan of action for dealing with legitimate privacy concerns. The reason why SB 682 and SB 768 failed wasn't because big business beat down the little guy once again. It is because both bills were engendered by extreme, radical views that left no room for the truth. The truth is that RFID is both safe and secure when used responsibly, and there isn't a librarian I know who isn't a dedicated public servant who cares deeply about the privacy of their patrons. After all, librarians were among the first to protest against the Patriot Act. They risked violating the law to protect the privacy of library patrons.

UPDATE:

There are strong indications that SB 768 (formerly SB 682) was gutted and amended for cosmetic reasons and that the bill is quite dead.

The California Appropriations Committee decided to hold SB 682, thereby killing it for the remander of this year. However, the members of that committee as well as the committee chairperson - sitting as ordinary Assemblypersons during a floor vote - voted to allow Senator Simitian to amend SB 768 in order to replace all of its content with the contets of SB 682 - the very bill that the Appropriations Committee voted to kill.

This glaring contradiction begs for an explaination, and an explaination is readily apparent: it was done to allow Senator Simitian to "save face."

Rumor has it that Simitian pledged the sponsors of the bill (the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation) that he would get SB 682 to the Assembly floor. And that's what this seemingly bizarre amendment allowed to happen. This seemingly hollow achievement allows Simitian to satisfy his political allies with a Pyrrhic victory and the illusion of overcoming overwhelming political force. But it is likely that somewhere a high level deal was made to allow Simitian to save face with the promise that the bill would never hit the floor for a vote.

However, like baseball, any partcular game of lawmaking is never over until it is over. When bills are "gutted and amended" in this fashion and for these reasons, the bill is customarily placed in the Inactive File. SB 768 is still in the Active File, which means anything can happen prior to the legislature adjouring at the end of the week.

Stay tuned.

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