SACRAMENTO — One of the Assembly's hottest tickets this legislative session may be a seat on the new Committee on Privacy and Consumer Protection.
Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) this month created the panel to deal with the growing threat to privacy from the use and abuse of the Internet and digital information about the health, finances, education and shopping habits of millions of Californians.
"California has a strong history of protecting consumer privacy while spurring an innovation economy," she said. The committee, which also will handle other consumer issues such as false advertising, "is the key committee to watch in the coming session," Atkins said.
Indeed, numerous Assembly members wanted one of the 11 new positions on the panel, said Atkins' spokesman, John Casey.
Her pick was Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles). He said he's already working on a bill to regulate the storage of human genetic data and also has started an Internet site for citizens to help him draft privacy-related legislation.
Other members from Southern California include Scott Wilk (R-Valencia), Ian Calderon (D-Whittier), Ling Ling Chang (R-Chino Hills), Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park) and Matthew Dababneh (D-Van Nuys).
"I think these issues are on the forefront of every consumer's mind," Gatto said. "You can't live a modern existence without all these devices we depend on that all have serious privacy and consumer protection issues."
Move over, Brazil
California is expected to vault past Brazil to become the world's seventh biggest economy by the end of the year.
That's what Bloomberg News concluded after updating and analyzing data from the World Bank and other international financial experts. It measured California's $2.2-trillion gross domestic product in 2013 and how it stacks up against the globe's wealthiest nations.
Last year, California passed Russia and Italy to move into eighth place among the international top 10.
California's economy grew an average of 4.1% a year from 2011 through 2013, Bloomberg reported, while much larger Brazil has slowed considerably in recent years with a drop in prices for major commodity exports. Brazil's gross domestic product fell 1% to $2.22 trillion in the first nine months of 2014, Bloomberg said.
The Bloomberg findings are "quite possibly prescient," said Jason Sisney, chief deputy at California's independent Legislative Analyst's Office. Part of California's ascension in the rankings could be caused by the strength of the U.S. dollar compared with other world currencies, he said. A decline in the value of crude oil also could be a factor, he speculated.
Tax season starts
Though it may not be as exciting as opening day at Dodger Stadium, tax season is officially underway at both the state Franchise Tax Board and the federal Internal Revenue Service.