A bill mandating smart phones to be enabled with a “kill switch” that would render the device useless if stolen passed the Minnesota Senate by a wide margin Friday.

The “kill switch bill,” which passed 44-14, would mandate any new smart phones after 2015 to be loaded with the functionality or provide the opportunity to download it. The measure was authored in response to a national epidemic of smartphone thefts, which are stolen and quickly resold for easy cash.

Locally, smartphone thefts have figured in a series of high-profile robberies on and around the University of Minnesota campus in recent months, and Mark Andrew, a former Hennepin County commissioner and unsuccessful Minneapolis mayoral candidate, was badly beaten by thieves who stole his phone at the Mall of America.

Despite its initial reluctance, the wireless industry announced last month that it would pledge to equip all smartphones with kill switch functionality in 2015. The bill’s author, Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL- Newport said the bill, coinciding with the pledge is meant to help deter future crimes from occurring and shows that the state is serious about stopping smartphone theft.

Under the bill, the “kill switch” feature could only be activated with the owner’s consent.
The bill was rolled in with a separate measure by Sen. Kari Dziedzic, DFL-Minneapolis, that would require retailers who buy used smartphones to keep a record of the sellers and limits payouts to electronic transfer or check—not cash.

The measure heads next to the House, where its sponsor, Rep, Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, said it’s likely to pass. He said the bill, coinciding with the wireless industry’s pledge to install the functionality, as a “belt and suspenders” arrangement to ensure the functionality is equipped in phones.

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