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Legislative Session Yields Privacy, Blockchain Laws

Signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, the new bills have likely significance to governments and technology companies alike.

The California Capitol building.
The recent legislative session is behind us, but technology companies and governments alike should be aware of several new laws with potential significance to those operating in the IT space.

Among the many bills he signed or vetoed by Sept. 30 in accordance with state law, Gov. Gavin Newsom approved these four, which would make some notable changes in health care, privacy and blockchain. Among the takeaways:

  • Assembly Bill 1797, from Assemblymember Dr. Akilah Weber, D-San Diego, the California Immunization Registry Modernization Act, would update the California Immunization Registry. It would require health-care providers and agencies like schools, child-care facilities and family child-care homes to “disclose the specified immunization information” — and to add “race and ethnicity” to the list of information that is disclosed. The bill further authorizes those health-care providers and “county human services agencies,” through Jan. 1, 2026, to use the “specified immunization information for the COVID-19 public health emergency” to assess the immunization status of pupils, adults and clients to ensure public health and safety. The bill, Weber’s office said on its website, requires “data submissions to support health equity and accuracy.”
  • State Senate Bill 786, from state Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, authorizes recorders at the state’s 58 counties to use “verifiable credential, as defined, using blockchain technology” to issue certified copies of birth, death or marriage records. The bill defines blockchain technology as “a decentralized data system, in which the data stored is mathematically verifiable, that uses distributed ledgers or databases to store specialized data in the permanent order of transactions recorded.” The bill further requires county recorders to make sure those certified copies are safeguarded against fraud and “unauthorized or illegal access, destruction, use, modification, and disclosure.”
  • AB 2089 from Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, D-Orinda, adds “mental health application information,” or app information, to the state’s definition of medical information — thereby protecting it under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). The bill defines such information as “information related to a consumer’s inferred or diagnosed mental health or substance use disorder ... collected by a mental health digital service ... .” It specifies that any business offering mental health digital services to consumers to manage their information or to diagnose, treat or manage medical conditions “is deemed to be a provider of health care” and thereby subject to the requirements of the Confidentiality of Medical Information Act. And it requires businesses offering mental health digital services to give a health-care provider information on finding reported data breaches, when they partner with those providers.
    “Mental health information is incredibly sensitive,” Bauer-Kahan said in a statement earlier this year. “Imagine you reach out for help, and then are tracked across the internet with predatory ads targeting the information you shared. Seeking mental healthcare is difficult enough. It’s unacceptable that we allow people’s privacy to be violated as a result of care.”
  • AB 207, a human services omnibus bill from Assemblymember Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, offers clarification on the California Statewide Automated Welfare System (CalSAWS). It appears to offer a determination on a completion date for the system’s automation, indicating that a section of the bill pertaining to exemptions for support payments will be operative Jan. 1, 2024, “or the date that the Department of Social Services has determined that necessary automation within the Statewide Automated Welfare System can be complete, whichever date is later.” The bill further specifies that the California departments of Social Services (DSS) and Child Support Services (DCSS) offer “full passthrough of child support payments” to families that get CalWORKs benefits starting Jan. 1, 2025, or on the date that CalSAWS and the California Child Support Enforcement System “can perform the necessary automation for this purpose, whichever date is later.” And it indicates the Legislature’s intent that DSS report to it by April 1, 2024, ahead of a determination “related to a General Fund augmentation” for DCSS and DSS to implement the passthrough. The bill authorizes DSS, which is already charged with implementing the Child Welfare Services/Case Management System (CWS/CMS), to “implement and administer ... provisions relating to CWS/CMS and the replacement system through all-county letters or similar instructions ... .” The bill requires DSS to provide an update on regulations development and a formal status update by Oct. 1, 2024.
Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Industry Insider — California.