Capitol Alert

Soda taxes and privacy rights: Rushing to meet the ballot measure deadline

‘It was my mistake’ Facebook CEO Zuckerberg testifies before Senate committees

The Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees questioned Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg during a hearing on April 10. Zuckerberg testified about Facebook’s handling of user data and privacy.
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The Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees questioned Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg during a hearing on April 10. Zuckerberg testified about Facebook’s handling of user data and privacy.

Today's the deadline. If deals are to be made to keep two initiatives off the statewide ballot, it's now or never.

First up is a bill on consumer privacy.

Alastair Mactaggart, a San Francisco real estate developer who has spent more than $3 million on his privacy initiative, said he will pull the initiative as soon as the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 is signed into law — just hours ahead of a deadline to file with the Secretary of State's office.

State Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Los Angeles, is a primary sponsor of the bill who participated in heated negotiations over the weekend between industry and consumer privacy advocacy groups. He said the bill will soon become "the most far-reaching privacy law in the country."

Though AB 375 provides more power for Californians to hold companies accountable for potential abuse of their data, it was hastily amended over the weekend with broader language to give tech companies more legal protection.

Starting in 2020, members of the public could ask a business to delete information they have on them. Upon request, businesses that sell consumers' information would have to disclose the categories of information they collect. The bill also allows individual consumers to sue companies for up to $750 if there is an unauthorized breach of their non-encrypted personal information.

Industry groups argue the bill still intrudes on the rights of companies but say it is a better deal than the initiative.

Mactaggart said he has not received any reassurances from Gov. Jerry Brown's office about signing the bill and threatened to keep the initiative on the ballot if it weren't signed into law by the end of the day Thursday. According to a Hertzberg spokeswoman, the bill will arrive on Brown's desk by 3 p.m.

SACRAMENTO MAYOR: AVOID SODA TAX 'CATASTROPHE'

Soda taxes are also on the agenda. Organized labor and business groups are working to remove from the November ballot a proposed measure that would make it harder to raise state and local taxes. To do so, they're offering an olive branch to the beverage companies that have been the biggest donors to the effort.

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg is among those calling on state lawmakers to pass Senate Bill 872 — a budget-related bill that prohibits new local taxes on soda until the end of 2030.

“I’ve been in politics a long time, and sometimes you have to do what’s necessary to avoid catastrophe,” Steinberg said in a news release. “SB 872 protects the ability of local governments to raise crucial revenue with a majority vote and avoids drastic cuts to public safety, fire and other services.”

Steinberg estimates his city would face a $50 million deficit in fiscal year 2020 if Measure U — the temporary half-cent sales tax passed by voters in 2012 — were not extended.

INFLUENCER OF THE DAY

How to solve California's housing crisis? Influencers have plenty to say.

“It’s either disingenuous or a waste of time in my opinion to claim that affordable housing is a priority without calling out both the need for reform of our CEQA laws and the profound and at times surprising NIMBYism that exists within California’s communities. Builders propose projects, jump through hoops for approvals, neighbors sue. City councils vote yes, builders submit plans, environmental groups sue. The 1970 law is used as a tool by labor unions, environmental activists and even business owners to kill projects, even in cases where environmental protections aren’t an issue. There is currently no downside for any of these interests to sue; they can recover attorneys’ fees, while public agencies cannot. CEQA lawsuits also take far longer than they should and longer than current law intends. Californians claim they want low-cost housing — so long as their perceived home values aren’t impacted. This is one of those issues that won’t be well-served by soundbites or unrealistic promises. Both gubernatorial candidates should take the time between now and November to educate and then engage voters in the reform conversation. If we want to build more housing, there will be short-term sacrifices for most of us. Let’s get real about it."

Cassandra Pye, president of California Women Lead, founder and CEO of 3.14 Communications

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