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Governor Listens To Insurance Lobbyist To Veto Privacy Protection Bill

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

Posted on May 28, 2004:

Senator Dyson Apparently, a big-time Washington insurance lobbyist has more sway than numerous consumer protection groups and constituents when it comes to protecting our privacy.

After heavy lobbying by the American Council of Life Insurers, Governor Ehrlich vetoed Senate Bill 117 -- Consumer Protection -- Privacy of Social Security Numbers which I sponsored. This consumer protection bill simply would have done much to protect Marylanders from the nightmare that is identity theft.

When I heard that the high-paid lobbying firm, which has worked all year against this bill was urging a veto, I didn’t think Governor Ehrlich would go along with them. I especially didn’t think he would agree to side with the insurance industry after many of my constituents, the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition, the AARP, and other consumer advocacy groups wrote to the Governor asking him not to veto this legislation. I’m also surprised that he vetoed a bill that only one of 188 members of the Maryland legislature voted against. The Maryland Attorney General’s Office also supported this bill.

None of the lobbying by groups that simply wanted good legislation passed and weren’t being paid a dime for their efforts did them any good. This is especially troubling after reading in the May 20 edition of the Annapolis Capital that Maryland ranks 7th in lobbyist spending. The article states that lobbyists spent $30.5 million during this past General Assembly Session. Governor Ehrlich campaigned against what he called a “culture of corruption” in Annapolis, citing lobbying scandals as part of this “corruption.” I for one believed him.

So now, the bill, which would have gone into effect at the beginning of next year will have to wait until at least the second week of January 2005 or perhaps longer to become law.

The insurance lobby and Governor Ehrlich are turning a blind eye towards a major problem in our state. More than 10,000 people were victims of identity theft in Maryland last year and that figure is expected to climb as internet hackers and others who illegally use our personal information better learn their nefarious craft.

I worry especially about our senior citizens who are being targeted the most by identity theft. The non-profit AARP supported my bill after surveys conducted in 1998 and 2000 “consistently show that respondents believe personal information, including social security numbers should not be shared,” according to AARP testimony before the Senate Finance Committee this year.

“AARP has taken an active role in protecting consumers’ social security numbers in response to the overwhelming increase in identity theft,” AARP’s testimony continues. “Caused by advances in information and communications technology, the privacy of social security numbers is being threatened and made readily available and subject to commercial exploitation. Weak legal prohibitions against the sharing and selling of consumers’ personal information allow individuals to continue their deceptive and unfair trade practices.”

Because of this veto, Marylanders’ social security numbers will still be subject to identity theft. This is lamentable.

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

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