Senate approves ‘kill switches’ for cellphones sold in California


The California Senate passed a bill this week requiring cellphones sold in the state to be equipped with anti-theft technology.

The state Senate on Thursday passed a measure that would require cellphones sold in California to be equipped with “kill switches” that can render them inoperable if stolen.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and other law enforcement officials backed the legislation as a way to counter a surge in often-violent robberies, in which thieves take smartphones to resell them.

“We have a crime wave sweeping our state,” Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) told his colleagues before the vote. “We are trying to keep our constituents safe on their streets and in their neighborhoods.”

The bill had previously failed a Senate vote, but Leno agreed to change it to exclude electronic tablets and delay the date by which kill switches would be mandatory in newly made phones, from January to July 2015.


As a result, Apple and Microsoft dropped their opposition, and five Democrats switched their votes to support the measure. It passed 26 to 8 and now goes to the Assembly.

Some Republicans voted against the measure because of a provision for fines of as much as $2,500 against retailers who sell phones that lack kill switches. Many smartphones are made outside the state and could wind up mistakenly shipped to a California retailer without a switch, the opponents said.

“It’s a big burden on a retailer to ensure that every single product they sell meets every single standard,” said Sen. Mark Wyland (R-Escondido).

The measure, SB 962, was deemed unnecessary by the CTIA, a wireless industry group that noted makers have volunteered to pursue anti-theft measures.


“State-by-state technology mandates stifle innovation to the ultimate detriment to the consumer,” Jamie Hastings, a vice president of the group, said in a statement.

Another bill approved Thursday by the Senate would require nonprofit groups that put big money into California election campaigns to disclose the identities of their donors. Under existing law, such disclosure is voluntary.

The measure is in response to a controversy that erupted in the run-up to the 2012 general election, when a web of conservative groups from Arizona poured $15 million into California to fight Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax hike and support an ultimately unsuccessful move to curb unions’ political power.

Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) introduced the bill, which would require an organization to provide information about its donors if it spends at least $50,000 on politics in one year or more than $100,000 over four consecutive years.


The measure, SB 27, also would require committees on ballot measures, if they raise at least $1 million, to disclose the top 10 contributors who gave $10,000 or more.

“This bill will ensure that the voters get this information in a timely manner no matter how many hands the money flows through,” Correa told his colleagues.

The bill, which passed 28 to 7 and now goes to Brown, would not apply to donations made before July 1 of this year.

In the Assembly on Thursday, lawmakers unanimously approved a measure that would ban unreported fundraisers held in lobbyists’ homes and offices.


Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), the bill’s author, introduced the measure after lobbyist Kevin Sloat admitted in February to improperly providing expensive wine, cigars and liquor to about 40 elected officials during fundraisers at his home.

The bill, AB 1673, was approved 68 to 0 and heads to the Senate.

The Assembly also approved a resolution supporting the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh, a semi-autonomous territory in Azerbaijan populated by ethnic Armenians. On a 70-1 vote, members approved the resolution, AJR 32, by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles). It now goes to the Senate.


Times staff writer Melanie Mason contributed to this report.