Los Angeles Times

The high cost of an autograph

- Ith more than

W1,000 bills sent to the governor during the last legislativ­e session (and thousands more that were introduced but not approved), it’s natural that many go virtually unnoticed. Typically, that’s because they are procedural, routine, pointless or esoteric.

Unfortunat­ely, this crush of proposals also can provide cover to bills that are badly drafted, likely to be ineffectiv­e or that have serious potential for unintended consequenc­es. Case in point is AB 1570 by Assemblywo­man Ling Ling Chang (R-Diamond Bar).

This bill proposed that all autographe­d memorabili­a sold for more than $5 come with a certificat­e of authentici­ty, a copy of which sellers must keep for seven years. The intention was to stop the proliferat­ion of forged celebrity autographs, which apparently are being sold to unsuspecti­ng fans and collectors. Actor Mark Hamill from “Star Wars” was a strong supporter, and apparently that was enough to get approval all the way up the line. No one looked too closely at how this law might affect other businesses — including the author, who had a feel-good headline to fuel her campaign for an open state Senate seat.

It wasn’t until Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature was drying on the bill last month that independen­t bookseller­s suddenly realized the new law was so broad that it could criminaliz­e them if they didn’t have a certificat­e for every book autographe­d by an author. Bookseller­s and authors protest that such a requiremen­t would be so expensive, it would render author signings impractica­l. When they expressed their concern, Chang said the new law wasn’t intended to apply to author-signed books, and bookstores should simply ignore it when it goes into effect Jan. 1. But if the language of the law appears to apply to them, it is irresponsi­ble and inadequate merely to tell them to ignore it.

This bill never should have passed. The Legislatur­e must fix or repeal it immediatel­y when it resumes business. But what really needs fixing is the system that allows legislator­s to propose and approve new laws whose implicatio­ns they don’t fully understand.

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