Citing a potentially inauspicious analysis, former lawmaker Steve Peace and retired trial lawyer Michael Thorsnes have pulled the plug on a proposed state ballot initiative that would have added new privacy protections to California's constitution.
Peace and Thorsnes turned some heads in the technology community after teaming up on the proposal, which would have enshrined in the state constitution the presumption that someone's personally identifying information -- including data on health and finances -- is confidential when collected for commercial or governmental purposes.
Peace told The Sacramento Bee on Monday that he decided to drop the effort after the Legislative Analyst's Office warned it could spur "unknown but potentially significant costs to state and local governments from additional or more costly lawsuits, increased court workload, data security improvements, and changes to information-sharing practices."
"We're back to the drawing board," said Peace, who was appointed finance director by Gov. Gray Davis after being termed out of the Legislature.
Proponents were inspired in part by the saga of former National Security Agency contractor and whistle-blower Edward Snowden. Peace recalled attending a fundraiser for fellow Democrats where Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and colleagues roundly condemned Snowden's leaking of classified information on government surveillance and called for swift U.S. action. Peace has said he believes Snowden could have been charged with crimes but said President Barack Obama's administration was wrong to bring charges of espionage.
Thorsnes, a longtime Democratic fundraiser, photographer and poet who published an anthology under the pseudonym Rowdy O'Yeats, got on board with the consumer privacy effort after becoming a mentor to Peace's law-school son, Chad Peace.
Supporters would have had to collect 807,615 signatures from registered voters by Feb. 24. But Peace said he struggled to coalesce the entire privacy community and "couldn't in good conscious ask people to spend 25 million bucks" on a proposal "where we were going to have to spend all of our time on defense" because of the analyst's analysis.
"We would never win the argument with the legislative analyst," Peace said.
"It was too big a hurdle."
PHOTO: Steve Peace, left, then budget director to Gov. Gray Davis, chats with Republican Jim Brulte of Rancho Cucamonga during budget negotiations in July 2003. The Sacramento Bee/ John Decker