BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                  AB 923
                                                                  Page 1

          Date of Hearing:   April 20, 2009

                        ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION
                                   Mike Eng, Chair
                    AB 923 (Swanson) - As Amended:  April 13, 2009
           
          SUBJECT  :  Department of Motor Vehicles records: confidentiality

           SUMMARY  :  Adds Board of Equalization (BOE) members, certain  
          veterinarians, and code enforcement officers to the list of  
          occupations whose records are granted enhanced confidentiality  
          by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).  Specifically,  this  
          bill  :  

          1)Requires DMV to apply specified confidentiality protections to  
            the home addresses in their records that are obtained from:  

             a)   Constitutional officers of the BOE;

             b)   Veterinarians employed by: a zoo; a public animal  
               control agency shelter; or a society for the prevention of  
               cruelty to animals shelter or a humane society shelter  
               contracting with a local public agency for animal care or  
               protection services; and, 

             c)   Code enforcement officers employed by local government  
               agencies.  

          2)Provides definitions for the terms "veterinarian," "zoo," and  
            "code enforcement officer."  

           EXISTING LAW  :  

          1)Lists 23 classes of persons primarily in law enforcement  
            fields, plus the spouses and children of those persons, and  
            allows them to request that their home addresses be held  
            confidential by DMV.  The home address of these persons may  
            only be disclosed to a court, a law enforcement agency, the  
            BOE, or any governmental agency legally required to be  
            furnished that information.  

          2)Affords confidentiality for the home addresses of all  
            individuals contained within DMV records.  These provisions  
            similarly allow for disclosure to courts, law enforcement  
            agencies, and other governmental agencies but also allow for  








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            limited disclosure to financial institutions, insurance  
            companies, attorneys, vehicle manufacturers, and persons doing  
            statistical research.  

          3)Grants DMV the authority to suppress all records for at least  
            one year for persons who are under threat of death or bodily  
            injury.  Under these circumstances, the entire record,  
            including the address, is rendered inaccessible.  

           FISCAL EFFECT  :  An analysis by the Assembly Appropriations  
          Committee of similar legislation in 2008 indicated annual costs  
          to DMV of less than $50,000.  

           COMMENTS  :  This is essentially a reintroduction of Mr. Swanson's  
          AB 1958 from 2008, which died on Suspense in the Assembly  
          Appropriations Committee.  The sponsor of this bill contends  
          that BOE members, in rendering decisions regarding tax issues,  
          could be faced with challenges to their personal safety as a  
          result of those decisions.  Similarly, veterinarians may face  
          threats by virtue of their euthanization of captured animals for  
          public safety reasons or their reporting of suspected dog  
          fights.  Supporters also point out that code enforcement  
          officers have been murdered in the line of duty over the past  
          several years.  The author, in fact, cites an instance where the  
          entire family of a code enforcement officer was murdered as a  
          result of his having reported and closed down a drug house.  

          This bill seeks to protect BOE members, veterinarians, and code  
          enforcement officers from persons who might seek to hunt them  
          down in order to exact revenge by adding these professions to a  
          statutory list of occupations whose home addresses within DMV  
          records are afforded enhanced confidentiality.  

          Until 1989, DMV records were considered public records, unless  
          state law specifically made them confidential, as was the case  
          for peace officers' addresses.  Therefore, until 1989, home  
          addresses were not considered confidential, and any person who  
          gave a reason that DMV deemed legitimate and could present to  
          DMV a person's driver's license number or license plate number  
          could obtain address information on that individual.  

          In 1989, actress Rebecca Schaeffer was stalked and killed.  The  
          murderer obtained her address from a private investigation  
          agency doing business in Arizona.  The private investigation  
          agency acquired her address through a subcontractor agent in  








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          California, who obtained it from DMV.  In response, the  
          Legislature enacted AB 1779 (Roos), Chapter 1213, Statutes of  
          1989, which made home addresses in DMV records confidential,  
          with specified exceptions.  

          Since that time, despite the fact that all home addresses are  
          afforded a high degree of confidentiality, the Legislature has  
          considered numerous bills proposing to add select categories of  
          persons to the confidentiality provisions that apply to peace  
          officers.  (The home addresses of peace officers and others on  
          the statutory list may only be disclosed to a court, a law  
          enforcement agency, the BOE, or any governmental agency legally  
          required to be furnished that information.  The home addresses  
          of everyone else may also be disclosed, in limited  
          circumstances, to financial institutions, insurance companies,  
          attorneys, vehicle manufacturers, and persons doing statistical  
          research.)  

          Historically, the Senate Committee on Public Safety had  
          jurisdiction over a number of the confidentiality bills that  
          have been introduced during recent legislative sessions.  After  
          much testimony and debate, it was decided that adding more  
          groups to the list of those eligible for peace officer  
          confidentiality served no useful purpose and was simply another  
          administrative burden for state and local agencies.  The  
          testimony indicated that a growing number of private sources  
          provide home addresses with little or no scrutiny.  

          In fact, most persons seeking confidential information about  
          others no longer look to DMV records for the data since those  
          records are so carefully protected and much more easily  
          obtainable via the internet.  DMV is not aware of any instance  
          since the enactment of AB 1779 where DMV home address  
          information has been used for a criminal purpose.  

          Most recent bills proposing to expand the statutory  
          confidentiality list have either died or have been vetoed.  In  
          2007, AB 1311 (Berryhill) would have extended confidentiality  
          provisions to community service and public service officers  
          employed by police departments.  That bill died in the Assembly  
          Transportation Committee after being withdrawn by its author.   
          In 2005, AB 1706 (Strickland) would have added fraud  
          investigators, park rangers, emergency dispatchers, and DMV  
          employees who test new drivers.  That bill also died in  
          committee.  In the 2003-04 Session, AB 130 (Campbell) and AB 246  








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          (Cox) both would have added members of Congress to the existing  
          statutory list.  Neither author ever took up his bill in  
          committee.  AB 2012 (Chu) from that session would have made  
          court-appointed attorneys, their investigators and social  
          workers assigned to child abuse cases eligible for special  
          address confidentiality in the department's records.  These  
          provisions were eventually amended out of that bill.  

          An additional factor in the issue of home address  
          confidentiality came to light last year as a result of an  
          investigation conducted by the Orange County Register.  That  
          investigation revealed thousands of unpaid violations and tolls  
          accrued by a number of peace officers and other individuals  
          whose DMV records are afforded enhanced confidentiality.  These  
          unpaid tolls and fines cost agencies in Orange County over $5  
          million over the past five years.  Parking and toll agencies  
          throughout the state, including those in San Diego and San  
          Francisco, have experienced similar abuses.  

          When parking agencies or toll road operators attempt to collect  
          fines from such individuals, DMV is not able to provide the  
          offender's registered addresses in a manner timely enough for  
          fines to be collected under the statute of limitations.   
          Therefore, it is generally not cost effective for agencies to  
          pursue money owed, so that fines for these violations are  
          usually written off.  While some agencies attempt to collect the  
          money by sending a notice to the individuals' employing entities  
          on file at DMV, there is no way to enforce the collection of  
          violations because this practice is not authorized under the  
          law.  AB 996 (Spitzer) of 2008 would have addressed this  
          situation but was vetoed by the Governor last year. 

           Related legislation  :  AB 592 (Bonnie Lowenthal) would extend the  
          same confidentiality privileges to BOE staff who have police  
          powers.  That bill will also be heard in this committee today.  

           REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION  :   

           Support 
           
          American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees  
          (sponsor)
          California Association of Code Enforcement Officers
          California Narcotic Officers Association
          California Police Chiefs Association 








                                                                  AB 923
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          San Diego Municipal Employees Association

           Opposition 
           
          None received
           
          Analysis Prepared by  :    Howard Posner / TRANS. / (916) 319-2093