California bill increasing Internet protections sent to governor

SACRAMENTO — Internet users would get more protection for their confidential information under a bill that lawmakers sent Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday.

The legislators also want Brown to extend carpool-lane access for owners of hybrid plug-in vehicles and to toughen state rules for storing guns.

The Internet bill is an effort to keep up with technology, lawmakers said. Existing law requires that consumers be notified when database operators find breaches that disclose Social Security, driver's license and credit card numbers or medical records.

But California does not require customer notification when passwords, user names or security questions and answers are breached.

"Cybercriminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated, particularly now that more individuals are conducting personal business and shopping online using their laptops, smart phones and even tablets," the bill's author, state Sen. Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro), said in a statement.

State agencies, individuals and businesses that operate Internet sites would have to provide the new notice under her bill, SB 46.

Prompt notification, she said, would help "minimize potential identity theft or other damages."

A separate measure would protect the confidential information of journalists. Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) offered it in response to the disclosure that the U.S Department of Justice, during a probe of a security leak, asked a phone company and other third parties for records involving reporters for the Associated Press.

By finding the phone numbers reporters call, officials might be able to identify confidential news sources, Lieu said.

California already requires law enforcement officials to give five days' advance notice to news organizations for subpoenas to be served on the news company or a reporter.

Lieu's bill, SB 558, would extend that requirement to subpoenas for third parties, such as Internet service providers and phone companies, in search of information on reporters' activities.

"Unfortunately the Department of Justice exposed a gaping hole in the shield law by simply going to a third-party carrier," Lieu told his Senate colleagues before the bill received final passage.

Another bill lawmakers sent Brown would extend for four years, until 2019, the "Green Sticker" program that allows plug-in hybrids to use car-pool lanes.

"This bill really provides an incentive for individuals to buy these clean, environmentally friendly vehicles to reduce our carbon footprint," said Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco). His bill is SB 286.

Legislators also finished their work on one of several gun safety measures introduced this year.

SB 363, by Sen. Roderick Wright (D-Inglewood), would make it a crime to keep firearms unsecured in a house where felons and others who are not allowed to own guns can gain access to them. Currently, gun owners are required to keep their firearms secure from children.

In other matters, the Senate Budget Committee approved a plan by Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) to reduce prison crowding by spending more on rehabilitation and treatment for mental illness and drug abuse.

The committee's action sets the stage for a showdown between backers of the Steinberg plan and supporters of a competing proposal by Gov. Jerry Brown to pay for alternative housing for inmates.

The state is under court order to reduce the prison population by more than 9,600 inmates by the end of the year.

Steinberg said his plan, which proposes a three-year extension of the court order, "is more durable and sustainable than the administration's approach, is less costly to the taxpayers and more consistent with public safety and sound public policy."

Brown quickly dismissed the Senate plan as "an inmate release plan by another name, totally dependent on an illusory legal settlement."

Also on Wednesday, lawmakers shelved a measure that would have barred school districts from suspending students for "willful defiance," which includes refusing to do schoolwork or follow teachers' instructions.

Assemblyman Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento) said he needed more time to win support from teachers who opposed it.

Noting that students of color face disproportionately high suspension rates, Dickinson said his bill deals with "a civil rights issue, not a school discipline issue."

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