California legislation requiring a "kill switch" to render stolen smart phones inoperable met a premature death on Thursday.
The measure from Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, fell two votes short of a majority, despite receiving strong support from law enforcement groups and officials.
Senators took up Senate Bill 962 after several leading wireless phone providers such as AT&T and Verizon announced plans to install software allowing customers to delete information and permanently turn off devices. Opponents contended that the bill was no longer necessary.
"When you find yourself in the end zone, declare victory and move on. The industry is voluntarily doing it," said Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff of Diamond Bar. "One of the biggest criticisms we get in the state is they don't have a 'kill switch' on us when we come up with crazy ideas."
Leno argued the bill was still needed because it would mandate phones made and sold in the state beginning next summer to carry the technological deterrent as a default. Consumers would still have the option to opt-out of the technology.
He said phone makers had opposed voluntarily adopting kill switches — or acknowledge having the capability to do so — over the last two years even as the crime soared. In 2012, more than half of all robberies in San Francisco and two-thirds in Oakland involved mobile device thefts.
"I am not connecting any dots, but let me just state a fact," Leno said. "The industry makes billions, tens of billions of dollars replacing lost and stolen phones each year. They also make many billions of dollars selling you and me insurance in case you are robbed.
"If we end the robbery, there will be an obvious impact to their bottom line."
PHOTO: Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, left, and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, talking to reporters at the Capitol June 19, 2013. Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli.