Reading the Props: 24 Is Being Used to Lock in an Earlier Law

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

Every two years, I read the full text of all statewide ballot propositions—because at least one Californian should.

Next is Proposition 24

Prop 24 almost broke this reader.

The Consumer Personal information Law and Agency Initiative, as it’s called, runs 50 mostly single-spaced pages, and includes 26,279 words, making it by far the longest initiative on this ballot, or any other ballot. It was by far the hardest read of any measure in recent memory.

It’s also a sequel. And like Godfather 2, it’s longer than the original.

Prop 24 doesn’t so much amend as it expands the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018, the groundbreaking law, produced as a compromise to head off a ballot initiative. Prop 24 proposes to create a state privacy protection agency, and would strip businesses of the ability to fix violations before they were penalized.  There are many dozens of other provisions, including a requirement to obtain permission from parents before collecting data on anyone under 13.

Why so much detail here? Because Prop 24, and its chief backer, the Northern California real estate developer Alastair Mactaggart, are using the inflexibility of California initiatives—which typically can’t be amended except by another vote of the people—to lock in the 2018 law. 

If the law from 2018 stays in place, it can be changed, or amended or gutted. But put those provisions into Prop 24 and get California voters to pass it, and key privacy provisions become next to impossible to change. 

The trouble with that is that technology changes, and so do our privacy needs. And Prop 24 locks in so much—all those thousands of worlds—that improving privacy law in the future will prove difficult.

 

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