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Thursday Bill Round-Up: Fitbits, Emissions Fines, And Rape Kits

 Tatsuo Yamashita/Flickr

Tatsuo Yamashita/Flickr

The Assembly passed measures on Thursday to protect health information, increase data about rape kits, and crack down on polluters after the Volkswagen emissions scandal.


When police departments investigate rape, the legislation would require them to track the number of rape kits in their custody and report it to a federal database. Departments would also need to specify a reason for each kit that hasn’t been tested.

California has thousands of untested rape kits in a back log, with police departments saying they do not have resources to test them all.


Bracelets and key fobs that track heart rate, distance traveled—even sleep patterns—have gone from non-existent a few years ago to a billion dollar industry. California lawmakers are looking to add rules about what happens to the data they collect.

Fitbit, Jawbone and makers of other wearable devices couldn’t sell the health information they collect without user permission, under another Assembly bill that passed Thursday.

"This is a very tricky area to legislate, because the technology is so new and the issues are still emerging," said Democratic Assemblyman Ed Chau.

The bill requires user consent before a company can sell or disclose their information. It would also bar businesses, which are beginning to hand the devices out to employees, from discriminating against workers based on their health information.

The ACLU and consumer rights groups support that goal, but oppose the bill—they say it lacks tough penalties or strict language to prevent abuses.


Assembly lawmakers also want harsher penalties for cars that violate pollution standards, after Volkswagen admitted it falsified emissions readings in almost 80,000 small diesel cars.

Democratic Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez told his colleagues the state’s fines are behind the times.

"California’s maximum penalty levels for violations of emissions standards have not changed since they first came into existence in the mid-1970s, when cars and other equipment cost only a fraction of what they do now," Gomez said.

The bill would not retroactively affect Volkswagen. It would raise future maximum fines for selling vehicles that violate emissions standards from as low as $500 dollars per car to $37,500. The amount could be adjusted for inflation.

The measure also allows California regulators to go after dealers who sell such cars from out-of-state.

All of these bills now move to the state Senate.