Alaska editorial: Alaskans deserve an identity theft bill

Posted: Monday, December 18, 2006

This editorial appeared in the Anchorage Daily News:

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Laws will go on the books this month in five additional states to help protect consumers from identity theft. That will make more than two dozen states that allow consumers to put a freeze on their files at credit reporting agencies. That simple step can help thwart crooks who try to open accounts under a victim's name.

Pennsylvania is the latest addition to the list. The governor there signed a "freeze" bill last month.

Check the list all you want; you won't find Alaska on it. Legislators should fix that first thing next session.

Several lawmakers tried hard the past two years to convince their reluctant colleagues to pass consumer protection legislation, drafted to fight the growing problem of identity theft. In addition to allowing people to freeze their credit files against inquiries without their permission, the Alaska legislation would have required companies and government agencies - anyone with a database - to notify their customers if a security breach put their personal information in jeopardy.

It was good legislation. Too bad it failed to pass.

First, a lobbyist for a nationwide database company succeeded in stalling the bill. Other companies and even a union griped about some of the requirements. And the Murkowski administration whined and dragged its bureaucratic heels over the possible cost if a state agency were to mess up and have to notify people of a security breach.

Then the bill finally died as Senate President Ben Stevens decided to shoot the legislation while he was feuding with North Pole Sen. Gene Therriault, the bill's co-sponsor. The two Republicans were tussling over unrelated issues, and the identity theft bill became collateral damage.

But Sen. Stevens is gone and there is new leadership in the Senate. Alaska has a new governor, and maybe it's our turn to grab a spot on the growing list of states doing what they can to help consumers. The Legislature returns to work Jan. 16. Let's see this bill be one of the first to win passage next session.

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